WASHINGTON — This is one pessimistic country.
Most Americans harbor doubts that President Barack Obama and resurgent Republicans can work together to solve the nation's problems, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll. In fact, many lack confidence that last week's elections will change much of anything in Washington.
People are far more negative about the ultimate impact of the first big elections of Obama's presidency — in which the GOP made huge gains across the country — than they were about the results two years ago when voters elected the Democrat and padded his party's House and Senate majorities.
It's more like nope.
"I don't think they're going to reach any compromise at all on anything," Dan Dore, a pilot from Freeland, Mich., said Wednesday. "They say, 'Yah, we're going to play nice,' but when it comes time to get anything done, I just don't believe it will happen. We hear the same rhetoric every two years, every four years, every six years."
"I have faith in the system. I have very very little faith in the people involved in the system," regardless of political affiliation, added Dore, 42 and an independent voter.
Just a week after the GOP benefited from change-craving voters looking to punish the party in power, Americans are much less optimistic that Republicans in Congress will be able to implement the policies they promised than they were about Obama making good on his campaign promises in 2008. And only about half expect that the GOP's policies will improve the economy.
The economy is still by far the largest issue facing the country, with the unemployment rate stuck at 9.6 percent. And it tops the list of what both Obama and Republicans said they'll focus on in the coming year.
Voters could punish everyone come 2012 — when Obama is up for re-election and when voters will render a verdict on Republican rule in the House — if they don't see progress being made.
Both Obama and House Republican leader John Boehner, the House speaker-to-be, have indicated a willingness to try to work together. But they also have suggested there are limits to how far each is willing to bend. On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell has said that his top political priority over the next two years should be to deny Obama a second term in office.
"When the administration agrees with the American people, we will agree with the administration. When it disagrees with the American people, we won't," McConnell, R-Ky., said last week.
Is it any wonder Americans have little belief that all sides will come together?
Still, some are cautiously optimistic.
"Because of the economy the way it is and because so many people are out of work, I'm hoping both parties put their best foot forward and can work together to get this resolved in a professional way without bickering," said Mary Ammon of Cochranville, Pa., a 58-year-old receptionist who just lost her job after 20 years.
"It's going to be hard," she said. "Both parties are going to have to put aside their animosity for each other and take the interests of the people to heart because the United States is in bad shape."
Overall, just over a third of people say Obama deserves all or a great deal of blame for what he called a Democratic "shellacking," while the same share say he deserves some of the blame and three in 10 say very little or none. His overall standing is holding steady in the wake of the big Republican victories, with about half the country — 51 percent to 47 percent — disapproving of how the president is doing his job.
His marks for handling the economy remain low, 41 percent approving and 58 percent disapproving.
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