Forty percent of Americans say Reagan administration policies have caused their financial situation to worsen and nearly half feel neither the Republicans nor Democrats offer solutions for their money woes, according to a magazine survey.
The national poll by Money magazine found a majority expect the economy to deteriorate, with the middle class particularly pessimistic about its financial future.It was the second year running that 40 percent of the 2,370 adult "financial heads of household" polled in the magazine's "Americans and Their Money" survey blamed Reagan policies for causing their financial situations to deteriorate.
Only 13 percent said Reagan's policies had helped and the rest said they were unaffected. Women were more likely than men to feel the president's policies have hurt them.
But only 28 percent of those polled said a Democrat in the White House would improve their finances. Even fewer - 26 percent - thought another Republican administration might help.
Forty-six percent said neither party would improve their fortunes.
"Those people seemed to say, `A plague on both your houses,' " said pollster Sy Lieberman, who surveyed a cross-section of the American public in May and June. "I don't get the impression anyone thinks either party will help with their problems."
The sixth annual survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
Fifty-three percent said they expect major economic problems to hit the country next year.
"This includes sizable numbers of people who anticipate a return to double digit inflation, who believe the unemployment rate will climb to 10 percent or higher and who think we are in for a serious recession," Lieberman said.
Wealthier Americans supported the Republicans and poorer people sided with the Democrats, but the survey showed profound financial anxiety and political indecision among people with incomes ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 a year.
"The middle class is mad as hell, and they are still taking it," Money Magazine managing editor Landon Jones said.
GOP nominee George Bush and Democrat Michael Dukakis should be wooing middle-class household decisionmakers but have failed to address the issues that worry them most, Jones said. The top three issues: rising health care costs, retirement income and the ability to finance children's college tuition.
For the first time, people between 35 and 50 said retirement income was their biggest worry.
"The candidates are not talking enough or clearly enough about the issues that most bother Americans financially," Jones said.
Respondents were not asked specifically about Bush and Dukakis because the survey was taken in the summer before the primaries were finished. Copies of the survey report were sent to both.
Lieberman predicted the election would hinge on the anxious middle class.
"Pocketbook issues could be pivotal in this election," he said. "Those who don't expect major economic problems next year - the optimists - will go with the Republicans. Those who do - the pessimists - will gravitate to the Democrats."
When it comes to taxes, most Americans favor a policy of "soak the rich," Lieberman said.