An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows American confidence in the economy has dropped sharply in recent weeks. More than a third said they thought the economy had worsened in the previous year, compared with a third who said it had improved and almost a third who said it had remained the same. In January, respondents said by a ratio of almost 2-to-1 that they felt the economy was getting better.
"The importance of the [economy] was illustrated Wednesday as economic questions dominated both candidates major campaign speeches of the day. Democrats have made it clear that they hope to use the trade deficit -- which the Commerce Department reported Wednesday grew by nearly a full percentage point in January alone -- and the loss of manufacturing jobs as issues against Bush," said MSNBC.
The poll also said Kerry and Bush were in a statistical tie for voter support, although the pollsters said "it was difficult to gauge the importance of the result, which was notably at odds with those of other polls in the past week, which have found Kerry with a statistically significant lead in a head-to-head matchup."
And the survey also held bad news for Dick Cheney. Only 39 percent of respondents felt "positively" or "very positively" about Cheney, the lowest level he has ever recorded in the NBC/Journal survey.
In other polling news, primary voters in five states on Tuesday were asked by exit pollsters to choose a running mate for John Kerry. The results were: 42 percent for North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, 22 percent for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and 9 percent for Florida Sen. Bob Graham. Any positive talk about Graham as V.P. centers largely on his ability to help Kerry win Florida. But even in his home state, Graham got only 19 percent to Edwards' 43 percent and Clinton's 17 percent.