CBS ‘Early Show’ Asks ‘Is America Broken?’

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterTouting a new CBS News/New York Times poll on Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming segment on the poll’s findings: "Is America broken? In a new CBS News poll, 81% of Americans believe this country's on the wrong track. Never has that number been so high."

Co-host Harry Smith later introduced the segment by declaring: "A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows 81% of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction. The 14% who think we're on the right track is all -- an all-time low in the 25 years that CBS News has been asking the question." Conveniently, as Smith pointed out, CBS News began asking that question in 1983, during the Reagan Administration, and never asked the poll question during the Carter Administration. If they had, one might suspect that quite a few Americans thought the country was "headed in the wrong direction" at the time.

Smith then highlighted a restaurant owner in New Jersey, Marianne Cuneo-Powell, who "is cutting costs any way she can." Smith went to show how Powell’s situation reflected the poll numbers: "She is among the 78% of Americans who believe the economy is in bad condition... Like Marianne, two-thirds of Americans believe the U.S. economy is already in a recession. And they are not encouraged by their leaders in Washington...Only 21% of Americans approve of President Bush's handling of the economy." Of course a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, not based on what the latest poll numbers say.

Smith then observed that: "Voters have more confidence on economic issues in Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, than they do in Republican John McCain." Smith then turned to CBS political analyst and former speech writer for Robert Kennedy, Jeff Greenfield, who explained: "Unsurprisingly, when economic times are tough and the Republicans have been in power for eight years, they're more skeptical about the Republican, in this case John McCain, than they are about the Democrats. But nobody gets highly confident marks here."

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterSmith and Greenfield also discussed the belief that Republicans are seen as favoring the rich with their economic policies:

SMITH: Yeah, it's interesting because when they go then to the question, who do these candidates particularly favor, middle class voters or rich, this is really stunning.

GREENFIELD: It is. Only 13% think that Obama would favor the rich. 23% Clinton. But more than half of the registered voters say McCain would. That's an endemic Republican problem. Republicans always have to convince voters they're not for the rich, just like Democrats have to convince voters they're tough enough. But in this economic mood it tells you why John McCain is so anxious to separate himself, Harry, from the Bush Administration. Four more years is not going to be the chant at the Republican convention, certainly not about the economy.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Is America broken? In a new CBS News poll, 81% of Americans believe this country's on the wrong track. Never has that number been so high.

7:01AM TEASER:

RODRIGUEZ: So much to get to on this very busy Friday. We told you about those stunning numbers in our new CBS News poll on Americans who believe this country is broken. We'll take a look at that poll this morning and what people think it will take to turn things around.

7:04AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows 81% of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction. The 14% who think we're on the right track is all -- an all-time low in the 25 years that CBS News has been asking the question. Americans are worried about major financial burdens like college tuition, mortgages, and even paying their daily bills. At a little café in Vorhees, New Jersey, Marianne Powell is cutting costs any way she can.

MARIANNE CUNEO-POWELL: We used to have a guy that came every week and sharpened our knives. Now we're doing them ourselves.

SMITH: She is among the 78% of Americans who believe the economy is in bad condition.

CUNEO-POWELL: This year I was really afraid that I would have to close the restaurant. But instead of closing, what I did is I just cut things out.

SMITH: Regrettably, her staff is one of those things.

CUNEO-POWELL: When it first opened, we had a hostess, we had four people, five people, six people in my kitchen, waiters. Now I have one waiter tonight, one bus girl. And I got two people in my kitchen.

SMITH: Like Marianne, two-thirds of Americans believe the U.S. economy is already in a recession. And they are not encouraged by their leaders in Washington.

GEORGE W. BUSH: It's a rough patch right now in our economy. But I'm confident in the long term we'll come out stronger than ever before.

SMITH: Only 21% of Americans approve of President Bush's handling of the economy.

HILLARY CLINTON: The American people need a president who will confront economic crises.

BARACK OBAMA: Our economy is in a recession.

JOHN MCCAIN: I will not play election year politics with the housing crisis.

SMITH: Voters have more confidence on economic issues in Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, than they do in Republican John McCain. But to those feeling the burdens of the current economic downturn, the solution is in self-reliance and determination.

CUNEO-POWELL: I want to stay open, I love what I do. And I, you know, I want to survive. I'm going to stay. And I'm going to make this work.

SMITH: And joining us now with some analysis of the poll is CBS News Senior Political Analyst Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, good morning.

JEFF GREENFIELD: Good morning.

SMITH: I want to put some of these charts up, some of these graphs up again. If you're running for political office in a season when the numbers are like this, what does it mean?

GREENFIELD: That the country is very skeptical about anybody's ability to really turn this economy around. Unsurprisingly, when economic times are tough and the Republicans have been in power for eight years, they're more skeptical about the Republican, in this case John McCain, than they are about the Democrats. But nobody gets highly confident marks here.

SMITH: Yeah, it's interesting because when they go then to the question, who do these candidates particularly favor, middle class voters or rich, this is really stunning.

GREENFIELD: It is. Only 13% think that Obama would favor the rich. 23% Clinton. But more than half of the registered voters say McCain would. That's an endemic Republican problem. Republicans always have to convince voters they're not for the rich, just like Democrats have to convince voters they're tough enough. But in this economic mood it tells you why John McCain is so anxious to separate himself, Harry, from the Bush Administration. Four more years is not going to be the chant at the Republican convention, certainly not about the economy.

SMITH: Yeah, and if we can put one more graphic up. It's just -- it's so interesting to have this kind of volatility. We're so many months still away from this general election and to -- to have this feeling in the country. I think it makes it difficult for whoever you are to try to convince the electorate you're the one with the answer.

GREENFIELD: No, the numbers have never been this bad. So anybody with a nostrum is going to look -- look with suspicion.

SMITH: There you go. Jeff Greenfield, thanks for your expertise, as always.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC