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Nevadans grow more pessimistic about economy, question if elected officials understand their problems

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By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevadans are more pessimistic now about the state of the economy than they have been since early 2010, according to the most recent poll commissioned by the Retail Association of Nevada.

It shows that Nevadans were starting to feel a bit better about the economy earlier this year, but their mood has changed in the poll by Public Opinion Strategies released today. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed said the state is heading in the wrong direction, up from 69 percent in February and 76 percent in September of 2010.

“So it’s a very pessimistic voter population,” said Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for RAN. “It’s just kind of reactionary. I think it ties for one of the most pessimistic polls we’ve done since we started polling.”

The only more pessimistic results came in February of 2010, when 80 percent of those surveyed said the state was headed in the wrong direction. RAN started its polling in May 2009.

Mary Lau, president of RAN, said the survey, “reflects the continuing, brutal toll that the economy is taking on Nevadans.”

“We conduct this poll approximately every six months to gain information about how Nevadans view our economy and the state’s political environment,” she said.  “We then share this information with our members, the public and state Legislators so that the real concerns of our state will be considered when policies are shaped in Carson City.”

The survey of 500 likely voters was completed September 14-15 and has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.38 percentage points. It was conducted just before the release of the unemployment numbers for Nevada for August, which showed the third straight month of increases after five months of declines. The jobless rate rose to 13.4 percent in August, up from 12.9 percent in July.

“You can see where we were going, and there were a couple of optimistic points in the history of the poll, but we’re back to the more pessimistic side,” Wachter said. “It’s not surprising that these people are disheartened with the employment numbers, but it is surprising to see that respondents allowed themselves to get a little excited and then now we’re seeing that drop back off.”

The survey also shows that while Gov. Brian Sandoval’s approval rating is strong at 50 percent with 33 percent disapproving, the Legislature is not as fortunate. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed approve of the job the Legislature is doing, with 48 percent disapproving.

And a majority of those questioned in the poll do not believe that Sandoval or the Nevada Legislature understand the challenges they are facing.

Fifty-two percent said they do not believe Sandoval understands the problems they face, with 41 percent saying he does. For the Legislature, 65 percent say lawmakers don’t understand their problems with 31 percent saying they do.

Among other findings in the survey:

Only 37 percent of Nevadans believe that the worst is over, compared to 50 percent who believed that in February of 2011 and 32 percent who believed that in May 2009.

Nevadans are also wary of increased taxes and government spending, with 64 percent saying there is still a lot of waste, fraud and abuse in the state budget. This same percentage says that increasing taxes and fees on businesses will result in additional job losses. Sixty-two percent say increasing taxes will harm efforts to diversify the economy.

Despite these views, 57 percent of Nevadans would rather raise taxes than cut spending if the alternative is cuts to education and health care, though an overwhelming majority of 71 percent would support a proposal to limit annual state government spending increases to the rate of economic growth in the state.

Public Opinion Strategies (POS) is a national Republican-oriented political and public affairs research firm founded in 1991.

Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for RAN, says Nevadans are more pessimistic than they have been in a long time:

092011Wachter1 :15 we started polling.”

Wachter says earlier polls showed a bit more optimism from Nevadans, but not in the latest poll:

092011Wachter2 :22 drop back off.”

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