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Most Americans see nation on the wrong track, new poll reveals

The Associated Press
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In this Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, photo, Carrie Montgomery works on her laptop at Wildflour vegan bakery in Pawtucket, R.I. A large majority of Americans say they are pessimistic about the state of the country and few expect things will get better in the year ahead, according to a poll released Tuesday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Michelle R. Smith)
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In this Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, waitress Kelcie Tipping, left, speaks with fellow waitress Mariam Touray, right, at the Modern Diner in Pawtucket, R.I. A large majority of Americans say they are pessimistic about the state of the country and few expect things will get better in the year ahead, according to a poll released Tuesday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Michelle R. Smith)

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — The state of the union is dark.

A large majority of Americans say they are pessimistic about the state of the country and few expect things will get better in the year ahead, according to a poll released Tuesday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

A week before President Trump delivers his assessment of the nation in a State of the Union speech to Congress delayed by a record-­setting government shutdown, the survey found just 28 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction.

Meanwhile, 70 percent say America is headed the wrong way. That’s up from 59 percent in December, with the percentage of those saying the country is on the wrong track now at its highest point in about a year.

A majority of Americans, 52 percent, also believe things are going to get worse over the next year.

While Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to feel negative about the direction of the country, even Republican pessimism is on the rise. The poll found 55 percent of Republicans and just 9 percent of Democrats think the country is headed in the right direction. A month ago, 69 percent of Republicans and 16 percent of Democrats said the same.

Jim Wadkowski, an 80-year-old self-described conservative from Fountain, Colo., said he approves of the job Trump is doing but sees the nation going the wrong way.

“All they do is fight. If one party thinks it’s good, the other thinks it’s bad. If the president thinks it’s good, the party opposed to him thinks it’s bad,” he said of the nation’s leaders. “They don’t do anything for the people.”

The remarkable level of national gloom is even beginning to extend to how Americans view the economy, once a relative bright spot in America’s mood. Since December’s swoon in the stock market, a slim majority of Americans still has positive feelings about the economy, but many expect it to decline in the next year.

The AP-NORC survey was conducted during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the result of Trump’s desire to deliver on his campaign vow to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border running headlong into the commitment of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to stop him.

When Trump delivers the State of the Union address delayed by that political fight next week, he’ll speak to a nation both in need of a pep talk and deeply skeptical of him as a messenger. The survey found that 34 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, compared with 65 percent who disapprove.

Carrie Montgomery, a 40-year-old learning specialist from Pawtucket, said she blames Trump for what she sees as an increase in “people’s boldness in speaking hatefully to other people.”

“I’m concerned about the oppression and hatred that the president drives in this country — the safety of citizens and their ability to access their basic human rights,” she said.