WASHINGTON (AP) - Confidence in the nation's economy is at an all-time high and Americans are showing it by reaching into their well-padded wallets for money they're not afraid to spend, according to a poll released Wednesday.
A survey by ABC News and Money magazine found 57 percent of those polled felt secure about the nation's economy, compared with an average of only 32 percent over the past 11 years. It also found 62 percent who were satisfied with their finances and 46 percent who felt comfortable spending their money.
A survey of economists released earlier predicted the economy will continue to grow modestly. The consensus projects the economy will strengthen from a 2.1 percent annual growth rate this spring to 2.6 percent through September and then fall back to 2.2 percent the final three months, leading to a projected 3.5 percent rate for the year.
Despite the growing confidence in the economy, Americans remain skeptical of politicians and their promises.
In a separate poll ABC News conducted with The Washington Post, 79 percent of Americans said they doubt the balanced budget deal hammered out in Congress will ever yield its intended result. And two-thirds said they doubt lawmakers will overhaul federal campaign finance laws.
While the second poll found that 51 percent felt partisan bickering was as prevalent as ever, 43 percent said they believe President Clinton and GOP congressional leaders are working together better.
Boosted by the economy's strength, Clinton received record-high approval ratings in the poll. Sixty-four percent said they approve of the job Clinton is doing in office. The only other time Clinton topped 60 percent was during his second month in office, when he scored a 63 percent approval rate, according to the survey.
A similar survey the last week of June by USA Today gave Clinton an approval rate of 55 percent, down from 57 percent in May.
Most of those in the ABC-Post poll showed little interest in the controversial issues surrounding the president. Seventy-four percent said they didn't care about Paula Jones' sexual harassment case against Clinton, and 78 percent said the issue hasn't affected their opinion of him.
The poll also found 59 percent who weren't interested in Whitewater. While 65 percent said the case hasn't affected their opinion of Clinton, only 32 percent said they are willing to believe Clinton is innocent in the case. Forty-two percent said they believe he did something illegal.
Meanwhile, ratings for Congress continue to lag, with 40 percent saying they like the job lawmakers are doing and 53 percent saying they disapprove. Republicans won approval from 40 percent of those polled, Democrats from 45 percent.
Each of the ABC News polls was conducted over the telephone with 1,017 adults. The Money magazine survey was conducted over the week ending July 6; the Post poll was done between July 6-8. Both surveys had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
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