Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

March 24, 2008 11:54 PM

State of the Nation

Americans are pessimistic about the country.

66% say the country is on the wrong track. Only 20% think it is going in the right direction. The wrong track score has been in the mid-sixties for almost a year. [NBC/WSJ 3/08]

The economy is rated as "poor" by 44% while 18% think it is excellent/good. 87% think that economic conditions in the "country as a whole" are getting worse. [Gallup 3/08]

80% are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States. Satisfaction has dropped from 35% to the current 19%. [Gallup 3/08]

7.9% of home loans are now in default. This is the first time since 1979 that the rate has been higher than 7%.

63,000 people lost jobs in January.

47% (including 43% of 18-29 year olds and 31% of those 65 and older) are worried thatretirement. [Gallup 2/08]

The impact of the current economy is represented by the number of people who say they are being affected "a great deal" or "quite a bit" by the following aspects of the economy.

  • 79% - price of gasoline and home heating oil
  • 67% - cost of groceries and household products
  • 58% - cost of health care
  • 45% - savings and pensions for retirement
  • 41% - impact trade agreements have had on American jobs [NBC/WSJ 3/08]

43% believe that their families are worse off than they were four years ago. The last time the NBC/WSJ poll found this manfolks feeling this way was in April, 1992. [3/08]

As the debate goes on as to whether the country is in recession, the public has decided. 76% say the country is in a recession. Democrats and independents are more likely than Republicans to have this point of view.

As to the next step, 59% believe it is at least somewhat likely that the country will be in a depression within two years. [Gallup 3/08]

What is abundantly clear is that the economy has replaced the war in Iraq as the #1 issue in the minds of Americans.

In a Gallup survey taken March 6-9, respondents were asked an open-ended question

"What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?"

  • Economy in general 35%
  • Situation in Iraq/war 21%
  • Poor healthcare/hospitals/high cost of healthcare 8%
  • Fuel/Oil prices 8%
  • Immigration/illegal aliens 6%
  • Unemployment/jobs 5%
  • Dissatisfaction with govt/Congress/politicians etc 5%
  • 19 other issues ranging from ethical/moral/religious decline (4%) to Guns/gun control (1%).

In the NBC/WSJ survey taken March 7-10, respondents were given a specific list of issues and were asked "Let me list some issues that have been proposed for the federal government to address. Please tell me which one of these items you think should be the top priority for the federal government."

  • Job creation and economic growth 26%
  • The war in Iraq 19%
  • Health care 12%
  • Energy and the cost of gas 10%
  • Terrorism 9%
  • Illegal immigration 9%
  • The environment and global warming 4%
  • Foreign policy and Iran 2%
As recently as December 2007 "the war in Iraq" and "health care" were the top issues at 18% each.

When it comes to Iraq [Gallup 3/08]

65% think the U.S. has " an obligation to establish a reasonable level of stability and security" in that country before all American troops are withdrawn.

63% believe that if U.S. troops are withdrawn, Al Qaeda is "more likely to use Iraq as a base for its terrorist operations.

57% believe that a greater number of Iraqis will die from violence if U.s. troops are withdrawn.

Only 18% of Americans believe that U.S. troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible. At the other end of the spectrum are 35% who believe that those troops should be kept there until the situation gets better. 41% favor a set timetable for gradual withdrawal.

A majority (75%) are not optimistic about a speedy withdrawal.

  • 2 to 3 years - 32%
  • 4 to 5 years - 26%
  • 6 to 10 years - 17%

In 2000 65% of Americans thought the United States was the leading economic power in the world. China ranked 2nd at 18%. There has been a big change. Now (2008) 40% of Americans believe that China is the leading economic power with the U.S. in 2nd place at 33%. Japan ranked 3rd in both years. [Gallup 2/08]

And while Americans had a marginally favorable opinion of China a year ago - 48% favorable/42% unfavorable - now 53% have an unfavorable opinion as opposed to 47% who still feel favorably toward that country.

57% of Americans say that there is at least "some conflict and tension" between people of different races . Only 11% say there is no conflict or tension at all. [NBC/WSJ 3/08]

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