New poll: Country as divided as Congress

A Connecticut-based poll released today demonstrates that Congress' deep division along partisan political lines mirrors the mood of the country as a whole.

The University of Connecticut/Hartford Courant poll found that 62 percent of Democrats nationwide feel better off today than they did four years ago, while only 9 percent of Republicans have the same perception.

A similar divide emerged between minorities and white voters, according to the poll. Seventy-eight percent of black voters feel better off today than when Barack Obama, America's first African-American president, was elected in 2008, while only 26 percent of whites say they are doing better. Hispanics also were more than twice as likely to see themselves as better off.

"These are fascinating findings, and consistent with the divided nation we have," University of Connecticut poll director Jennifer Necci Dineen said in a statement. "It is astounding that partisanship could so profoundly and differentially affect how people with very similar struggles view those struggles."

The poll indicated that the divide in perception comes despite the same percentage of Republicans and Democrats reporting the loss of a job over the past year and running into mortgage or foreclosure problems.

"There's definitely a difference in some of the ways people are interpreting the lingering effects of the recession," Dineen said. "But the biggest divergence doesn't seem to be in people's actual circumstances, but in the way they perceive how they're doing right now."

For instance, the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who reported an adult child living at home because of dire financial conditions was similar -13 and 15 percent, respectively.

Anxiety over the stock market appeared to forge some of Republicans' perceptions, with 40 percent reporting they had lost a significant part of their savings because of gyrations in the price of equities, twice the percentage of Democrats who experienced losses affecting their net worth.

Nearly a quarter of Republicans said they had been forced to sell something of value to make ends meet, almost twice the proportion of Democrats who faced the same decision.

The poll of nearly 1,200 randomly selected likely voters from across the country had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Other poll results:

• 42 percent of likely voters say they're worse off today than four years ago, and 35 percent say they're better off.

• 45 percent of voters who attend religious services once a week or more say they're worse off today, while only 31 percent who never attend services have the same impression.

• 64 percent want Washington to do more to foster job growth, while 29 percent want the market to recover on its own.

• Younger people perceive themselves to be better off now than they were four years ago, while older age groups have a progressively less optimistic view. Among the youngest voters, 54 percent see themselves as better off, twice the percentage of those 65 and over.

• Women see themselves as about as well off today as they were four years ago, while 45 percent of men see themselves as worse off, compared with only 32 percent who say they are better off.

• 42 percent of moderates see themselves as better off, compared with the 33 percent who believe they are worse off.

• People in the Northeast tend to see themselves as better off, while those in other regions view themselves as worse off.

l.howard@theday.com

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