A new poll reports that Mainers are increasingly pessimistic about the direction of the nation but at the same time are feeling somewhat more secure about their jobs today than six months ago despite the ongoing recession.
In the second installment of the firm’s biannual poll, Critical Insights of Portland found that just 27 percent of participants said they believed the economy is better today than 12 months ago, while 41 percent say it has gotten worse and 31 percent rated it as about the same.
Survey respondents also continued to list the economy as their top concern, but issues such as health care have closed some ground. In the fall 2009 survey, 31 percent of participants said the economy is the most important issue facing Maine today, compared to 35 percent in April and 59 percent last fall.
Health care received the second-highest number of votes as the most important issue, at 17 percent. The Critical Insights survey of 600 people was conducted between Oct. 23 and 27 and has a margin of error of 3.4 percent.
On the issue of unemployment, participants in the fall 2009 poll were feeling slightly more confident about job stability than a year or six months ago.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they were concerned about themselves or someone in their household losing their job in the next year, compared to 34 percent in April. Additionally, only 11 percent listed unemployment as the most important issue facing Maine today, down from 27 percent who listed it as the top issue in the April 2009 poll.
The poll was released Friday, the same day federal officials announced the national unemployment rate had topped 10 percent for the first time since April 1983. The state Labor Department reported last month that Maine’s unemployment rate dropped by 0.1 percentage point to 8.5 percent between August and September.
“While unemployment remains one of the top five concerns, the fact that respondents are less worried than they were six months ago about job losses is one of several hints that Maine residents may be feeling some cautious optimism about the economy,” reads an analysis of the poll results provided by Critical Insights.
The survey suggests that many Mainers remain pessimistic about where the state and nation are headed.
Six months ago, 59 percent of participants told Critical Insights they believed the nation was headed in the right direction. That figure has dropped to 47 percent.
Fewer Mainers also feel the state is headed in the right direction — 30 percent today vs. 34 percent in April. But interestingly, the cohort who believes Maine is headed down the wrong track has also shrunk in the past six months, from 59 percent to 52 percent. Instead, 17 percent of respondents in the most recent survey said they were unsure compared to 7 percent in the April poll.
Critical Insights also polled state residents on other issues such as their attitudes toward elected officials and the H1N1 flu outbreak.
Among the findings are:
• 56 percent had a favorable opinion of President Barack Obama, down from 61 percent in the spring. That is the same percentage as a recent national poll.
• More than 50 percent of respondents approved of the president’s handling of foreign affairs and the economy, but only 42 percent approved of his handling of health care and 38 percent of the war in Afghanistan.
• 52 percent disapproved of Gov. John Baldacci’s job performance, versus 47 percent in fall 2008.
• 70 percent approved of Sen. Olympia Snowe’s job performance, down 1 percent from the spring. Sen. Susan Collins had a job approval rating of 68 percent, down 5 percent since the spring.
• 79 percent regarded the H1N1 flu situation as “very serious” or “somewhat serious.” But 30 percent of respondents said they were not confident in the safety of the H1N1 flu vaccine, and 34 percent said they did not plan to get H1N1 flu vaccinations for themselves or their family.
• 84 percent believe development of wind power will create jobs and additional economic opportunities in Maine.
• More than three-quarters would strongly support or somewhat support the acquisition of additional “public lands” in the North Woods from willing sellers as long as the land is used for conservation, water access and outdoor recreation.