NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Americans know the economy is on the brink, but they also seem to have long given up on the notion that the president or Congress can really do anything about it. That's the sentiment from a study out today on consumer expectations.

President Obama certainly has a lot on his plate as he addresses Congress, and the nation, this evening.

While some economic indicators have reversed course and are trending slightly upward, the economy is still a long way from full-blown recovery and the president, to his credit, has been straight with the country about that outlook.

Even so, the American public appears to be tuning out President Obama and Congress, at least as far as the economy is concerned. A study from Arlington, Va.-based think tank Public Notice strongly implies that the average American is fed up with Washington’s treatment of the economy, four years into one of the worst economic slowdowns the U.S. has ever experienced. 

“Americans are very frustrated,” notes Gretchen Hamel, executive director of Public Notice. “They are equally as pessimistic. And they know that government isn’t going to solve the country’s problems, in fact, 56% think our government is making things worse. What can government do? A clear majority want their member of Congress to compromise in order to get more done.”

Public Notice has some general ideas about where the president and Congress should focus their attention, even if the barn door is already open and the U.S. public halfway out the door related to any policy initiatives coming from Washington.

“Policymakers should take these findings seriously and recognize that Americans want real leadership coming out of Washington, which means less government regulations and fiscal restraint as opposed to the partisan rancor which has led us to this point and negatively impacted the nation’s economy,” adds Hamel.

What can Washington politicans do to regain favor with the public? Besides resigning from office, the Public Notice survey of 805 U.S. registered voters (conducted between Jan. 5-19, 2012) offers the following takeaways:

  • Focus on jobs and public spending. When given a list of potential topics, 23% of respondents said they want Obama to focus on jobs in his State of the Union address Tuesday, while 20% said they want the president to focus on the economy in general, with 14% saying he should focus on government spending.
  • Reduce public debt. With more than $15 trillion in debt, the federal government is sending the wrong message to the American pubic, at the wrong time. According to the survey, 56% of voters said the federal government hurts the economy, while only 34% said it helps. Furthermore, 66% of voters said the economy is extremely or very impacted by the federal debt.
  • Less regulation. Perhaps surprisingly, voters don’t appear to be in tune with the president’s call for tougher regulations on U.S. business (especially those on Wall Street). About 21% of voters said businesses need more federal government regulation, 46% say regulations on businesses should be reduced and 27% said the level should stay the same.
  • No more partisanship. Americans have taken a long look at Washington and don’t like what they see: 59% of survey respondents want their elected representatives to compromise, so that “more will get done.”

The survey says that the U.S. public is roughly split on the notion of the "American dream," with 44% saying the next generation will achieve the American dream, and 43% saying it won’t. Furthermore, 66% say the country is broadly on the “wrong track.”

That’s not exactly a survey that shows the average American wearing rose-colored glasses. But it’s the electorate that the president faces when he speaks tonight – whether he likes it or not.

Plenty of voters also seem to care about money in politics, and wealthier candidates may find that a problem. Check out MainStreet’s look at the homes that GOP candidates want to trade for the White House for more!