With public attitudes fueled by continued economic problems, rising gas prices, vigorous opposition to the war in Afghanistan, and and little hope for political progress - confidence in the U.S. system of government has dropped to the lowest point in more than 35 years.

According to ABC News poll,  only 26 percent of Americans say they're optimistic about "our system of government and how well it works," down 7 points since October -  the fewest in surveys dating to 1974. Almost as many, 23 percent, are pessimistic, the closest these measures ever have come. The rest, a record high, are "uncertain" about the system.

Despite some signs of improvement, more than half still say the economy has not yet begun to recover. And there's trouble at the pump: Seventy-one percent in this poll report financial hardship as a result of rising gas prices. Forty-four percent call it a "serious" hardship.

In politics, many Americans appear to regard the choice between President Obama and the Republicans in Congress as no choice at all.

On one hand, 55 percent disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy and budget deficit alike. On the other, Republicans have lost ground in public trust to deal with both issues, now trailing Obama by 12- and 9-point margins, respectively.

The largest sore spot  in U.S. politics s the economy, with more than half of Americans, 53 percent, saying it hasn't begun to recover; 46 percent think recovery has begun. While that's not great, it's better than it's been: The number who see economic improvement has risen by 12 points since October.

People who think the economy is improving are 20 points more apt than those who don't to express optimism about the country's system of government. That suggests that further perceived economic improvement would do much to ease the public's long-running worries.

For more, see ABC News.