WASHINGTON -- The economic boom of the 1990s improved the financial outlook for upper middle class and wealthy Americans, but it had little impact on the outlook or financial condition of those who make less money, a poll says.
"The boom has passed these people by," said pollster Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Americans increasingly see an economic divide between the haves and have-nots, according to the poll, released Thursday.
Overall satisfaction with the country's direction has fallen in the past six months, with 43 percent now saying they're satisfied and 52 percent saying they're dissatisfied. That drop-off 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 don't has grown steadily and now is at 44 percent -- up from 26 percent in 1988.
Just over four in 10 in the new poll thought President Bush was mostly concerned with helping those who have enough, while one in 20 said he was interested in helping those who don't. 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 six in 10 said they hadn't thought about getting their income tax refunds. Just over a third said they were looking forward to 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 three in 10 in 2001. More than a third of those who have family incomes of less than $50,000 said they have credit card and loan debts that are more than they can afford.
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