Economic crunch, gas prices affected U.S. confidence

New opinion polls in the United States show rising gasoline prices have hurt Americans’ confidence in the country’s future and the performance of President Barack Obama.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday found that the proportion of respondents who believe the United States is on the wrong track rose five points from last month to 69 percent — the highest since Obama took office in January 2009.

Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said the worsening confidence is the result of rising gas prices that six out of 10 respondents said led them to to reduce their driving and cut back on other expenses. The poll also found that Obama’s approval rating dropped for a second consecutive month to 46 percent.

Young said there is “very little lag time” between rising gas prices and the impact on presidential approval and confidence. He pointed out, however, that the effects of energy costs on poll results often are short-lived.

A Gallup poll released Tuesday said Americans’ optimism about the U.S. economy dropped in March for the second straight month. It showed that only 33 percent of respondents said the economy is getting better, down from 38 percent in February and 41 percent in January.

Gallup said soaring gas and food prices pose major challenges to American consumers, reducing their disposable income and discouraging spending on non-essential items. It said other factors hurting consumer confidence include global events, continued U.S. political battles over the federal budget, and a weak job market.

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