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More Americans optimistic on economy even as ‘fiscal cliff’ looms

WASHINGTON -- Despite the looming “fiscal cliff,” more Americans are optimistic about the direction of the economy than at any point in about three years, according to poll results released Wednesday.

About 38% of respondents in the Bloomberg News poll said the U.S. is on the right track, up five percentage points from September and the highest reading since September 2009.

People also felt better about President Obama’s handling of the economy, with 48% saying they approved, the most since September 2009.

And 65% of respondents said Obama’s victory in the November elections gave him a mandate to raise tax rates on annual income above $250,000.

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Raising tax rates on the wealthy is a major issues in negotiations between Obama and congressional Republicans on avoiding the big automatic tax increases and spending cuts coming on Jan. 1.

Quiz: How much do you know about the ‘fiscal cliff’?

Despite more optimism, the poll shows Americans remained worried about the economy and their own financial situation. That was clear from the 55% of respondents who still say the U.S. is on the wrong track.

Unemployment and jobs ranked as the most important issue facing the country, chosen by 34% of respondents. It easily outpaced the federal deficit, which was second with 19%.

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Nearly a third of people -- 31% -- said they anticipated next year would be better for them financially than 2012, with 23% saying it would be worse and 44% saying it would be about the same.

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