Fewer people optimistic about direction of America

WASHINGTON — They’re almost an endangered species, the dwindling number of people who say the country is heading in the right direction. But they’re out there and the way they see it, the U.S. has handled tough times before and will do it again.

“Things go in cycles. Even when things are at their worst, there’s still an upturn” afterward, said Paula Fortin, 63, a retired bank supervisor from Marysville, Wash., who indicated that things are going the right way. “We’re still living at a higher level than most other countries in the world.”

Fewer than one in seven, or 15 percent, say the country is on the right path, according to the latest Associated Press-Yahoo News poll of adults. In these economically tough times, they tend to be older, less educated, conservative and supporters of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

Since last fall, the AP-Yahoo News poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, has tracked how the same group of about 2,000 voters has reacted to the presidential campaign and other events.

Just last month, nearly three in 10 said the country was on the right course. That figure has declined sharply, tracking the catastrophic financial problems of recent weeks and widespread expectations of a serious recession.

The poll shows a relationship between people’s views of the country and their own lives. Sixty-nine percent of those saying the U.S. is heading the right way report being happy in their own lives, while 52 percent of those sensing the country is on the wrong track are happy personally.

In addition, 41 percent of right-track people report difficulties getting ahead financially these days — compared with 68 percent of wrong-track people.

Six in 10 right-track people are Republican and slightly more than that are conservatives, both far exceeding the national average. Just one in four are Democrats and one in 14 are liberals.

The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 6 percentage points for those saying it is moving the right way, and 2.5 points for those saying it is going the wrong way.

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