60% have felt shutdown's impact as worries about the country grow

October 08, 2013, 9:29 PM UTC

Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the state of the nation's economy as the shutdown impacts millions of Americans.

There are many Americans who have seen the impact of the government shutdown, though it may not have touched them personally.  In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll 60% of Americans have either been personally affected by furloughs, government closures, or seen an impact on their business, or in many cases they know someone who has been affected.  Further more, the reach of the shutdown has affected confidence in the economy and the general direction of the country. 

60% have had contact in some way with the shutdown, though only 19% have been personally affected.  Nearly a third know someone who was unable to use a government service while one in five know someone who has been furloughed.  Democrats are only slightly more likely than Republicans to be in contact with a furloughed employee; 35% of Democrats but just 23% of Republicans say there know someone who was unable to use a federal service in the shutdown. 

Americans expect the shutdown, now a week old, to continue for a while.  About a third expect it to be over before the nation reaches the debt limit deadline of October 17, when there will be no money to pay the government’s debt.  But about as many think it will go one beyond then, and last nearly a month or even longer.    

The major impact of the shutdown however, may not be its personal impact, but how it has affected American confidence.  Only 16% of the public this week believes the country is heading in the right direction; more than seven in ten say it is on the wrong track.  Those are among the worst numbers in the Economist/YouGov Poll since the fall of 2011.  Just since this shutdown began a week ago, the percentage saying the country is headed in the wrong direction has risen nine points, to 72%.

These are still not quite the worst numbers ever recorded on this question: in October 2008, one month before Barack Obama first won the Presidency, and just after the financial collapse that helped him win, a CBS News/New York Times Poll found only 7% agreeing that the country was headed in the right direction.  89% in that poll said the U.S. was on the wrong track.

And unlike last week, in this week’s poll majorities of both Republicans and Democrats see the country as off on the wrong track.  Republicans have thought that ever since Barack Obama became President, and this week 90% of Republicans say that.   But so do 56% of Democrats, up from 39% a week ago. 

The increasing concern is also reflected in the growing concern about the economy.  This week, nearly three times as many say the economy is getting worse as think it is getting better.  In the last week, the gap between the percentage saying things are getting worse and saying they are getting better has doubled, going from 13 points to 26 points.

Democrats, who have been generally positive about the state of the economy, now have mixed feelings – with slightly more Democrats saying it is getting worse as thinking it is getting better. 

One of the casualties of the shutdown is the Bureau of Labor Statistics: it released no new unemployment figures last week, and will collect no data on the actual state of the economy while the government shutdown continues.   The economy remains the country’s most important problem – though one in ten now say it’s the budget deficit.  

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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