Americans believe that improvements in the economy over the past year have benefited the rich over the poor and middle class, and most consider U.S. economic conditions to be fair (46 percent) or poor (27 percent), as opposed to good (25 percent), according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll.

Sixty-six percent of the adults surveyed said that the wealthy have benefited a great deal (43 percent) or a fair amount (23 percent) from recent economic advances. A similar proportion of respondents said that the poor have benefited only a little (39 percent) or not at all (27 percent); working-class people had benefited a little (40 percent) or not at all (25 percent); and the middle class had benefited a little (39 percent) or not at all (25 percent).

In the days following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, the Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll showed that people are split on the president’s handling of the economy, with 48 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving.

“Most people say that the government plays a significant role in improving economic conditions, but they are not satisfied with economic advances to date, and much of that appears to be due to their own personal experience,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.

Seventy-six percent of those polled said that government can do a great deal or a fair amount to improve overall economic conditions, and 55 percent said that the government could do a great deal or a fair amount to impact their personal economic circumstances.

Views of president and Congress

While more people disapprove (48 percent) than approve (46 percent) of the job Obama is doing as president overall, his numbers have improved since the November 2014 elections, when his job performance was out of favor with 53 percent of voters. The approval rating for Congress has barely budged since the November election and stands at 14 percent, with 75 percent taking a negative view, down 6 points from November.

Two-party system

A majority of those polled expressed dissatisfaction with the two-party system. The current survey of the general populace shows slightly more support for the two-party tradition (36 percent) than was seen in an August 2012 Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll of people who were unregistered or unlikely to vote (32 percent). The percentage favoring a third party ticked upwards, 32 percent today compared to 26 percent in 2012. Twenty-three percent in the recent poll want multiple parties, compared to 27 percent in the 2012 poll.

Presidential election

As the potential presidential candidates begin to send out signals about 2016, the open-ended questions about who should be nominated showed former Mass. Gov. and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney with 16 percent and former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush with 13 percent on the Republican side, with 45 percent undecided and a bevy of others in single digits or less.

Former N.Y. Sen. Hillary Clinton retained her long-held lead among Democrats, with 51 percent, with Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (5 percent) and Vice President Joe Biden (4 percent) lagging behind and 31 percent undecided.

Methodology

The Suffolk University/USA TODAY survey was conducted via landline and cell phone. The field of 1,000 adults was conducted Wednesday, Jan. 21, through Sunday, Jan. 25. The margin of error is +/-3 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.