WASHINGTON - Americans increasingly see an economic divide between the haves and have-nots, according to a new poll that also finds a majority of people dissatisfied with the country's direction.
The poll, released yesterday, indicated that the economic boom of the 1990s helped the upper-middle class and the wealthy, but had little impact on the outlook or financial condition of those who make less money.
''The boom has passed these people by,'' said pollster Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Overall satisfaction with the country's direction has fallen in the past six months, with 43 percent now saying they are satisfied and 52 percent saying they are dissatisfied. That drop, from a 55-41 positive split in January, was led by a decline among women and minorities.
The number of people who think the country is divided between those who have enough and those who do not has grown steadily and now is at 44 percent, up from 26 percent in 1988.
Just over four in 10 in the new poll said they thought President Bush was mostly concerned with helping those who have enough, while one in 20 said he was interested in helping those who do not. Four in 10 said he was treating both groups about the same.
The president has pitched his recently passed tax cut as a way to help all Americans. But just over a third said they were looking forward to getting their income tax rebates, while almost 6 in 10 said they had not thought about it.
Less than half, 44 percent, now say they are in good or excellent financial shape personally, a drop of 8 percentage points from a year ago.
''The economic gains the middle class have made seem to be very much threatened by the credit crunch and by energy costs,'' said Kohut.
The number of people who say they have more debt than they can afford to owe has grown from a fifth of Americans in 1992 to almost 3 in 10 in 2001.
The poll of 1,200 people was taken last Wednesday through Sunday and had an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Copyright 2001 Associated Press