In addition to perceptions of a worsening economy and higher gas prices, Americans now face the costs of paying for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. When given several possibilities for that, a majority accepts only one option---reducing spending on the war in Iraq. Other proposals, some even now being seriously discussed in Congress, get much less support.
62 percent of Americans say that reducing spending on the war in Iraq would be an acceptable way of paying for recovery and rebuilding on the Gulf Coast. Fewer than half would accept cutbacks in the highway program, and only a third would be willing to increase the federal budget deficit or raise taxes. Even fewer would favor postponing the new Medicare prescription benefits.
ACCEPTABLE WAYS OF PAYING FOR HURRICANE REBUILDING
Cut spending in Iraq 62%
Reduce highway spending 46%
Increase budget deficit 35%
Raise taxes 31%
Postpone Medicare drug benefits 28%
Three in four Democrats and 68 percent of Independents want to cut spending in Iraq, but only a third of Republicans do.
Last month, in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina,CBS News and The New York Times asked Americans a different question---whether or not they would personally be willing to pay more in taxes for hurricane relief. A majority then said they would.
The Gulf Coast hurricanes continue to take a toll on confidence in the government's ability to protect Americans from terrorism, although there has been some improvement since September. In August, 72 percent of Americans had confidence in the government's ability to protect the country from terrorism. That dropped to 59 percent in September, and stands at 63 percent today. 37 percent still have little or no confidence.
CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT'S ABILITY TO PROTECT FROM TERRORISM
Great deal 16%
Fair amount 47%
Not very much 30%
Similar percentages express confidence (or lack of it) in the government's ability to deal with natural disasters.
Although it now seems that dealing with the recovery from Katrina and Rita may involve large government programs, there is little public enthusiasm for increased government activity. Just 38 percent now say that government should do more to solve national problems, little different from what has been the case for years.
Hurricane Katrina affected more Americans than just those in the hurricane zones. 27 percent say they personally have a close friend or relative affected by the storm. That figure is even higher in the South, where more than a third knows someone affected.
One thing that has changed is that Americans are more optimistic about the rebuilding of New Orleans than they were last month. One in four now expects that the city will be back as a working city in the next year or two, up from 17 percent last month.
More than half of Americans---55 percent---think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq (the highest figure to date), while 41 percent think taking military action there was the right thing to do, and a growing number of Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. Now, 59 percent want U.S. troops to leave, up from 52 percent last month and 40 percent earlier this year. Only 36 percent think troops should stay as long in Iraq as long it takes for that country to become stable.
U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ SHOULD...
Stay as long as it takes 36%
Leave as soon as possible 59%
CONGRESS AND TOM DELAY
31 percent of Americans now approve of the job Congress is doing, and 57 percent disapprove. Approval of Congress has never been high, but since March it has been especially low, at about a third. And while most Americans view neither the Democrats nor the Republicans positively, Democrats fare slightly better.
Republicans receive more criticism than Democrats when it comes to their ethics. Although a majority of Americans think members of both parties share the honesty and integrity of most people, 37 percent think the Republicans in Congress are less likely to have those qualities, compared to 28 percent who say that about the Democrats. Fewer than one in 10 Americans think members of Congress---of either party---have more honesty than Americans in general.