Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

June 26, 2009 11:59 AM

State of the Nation

It is pretty much a toss-up among Americans as to whether the country is going in the right direction or is on the wrong track.

February 41/44% 23/68%
April 43/43% 39/53%
June 46/42% 44/50%

87% are at least somewhat dissatisfied with the state of the U.S. economy. 84% rate the condition of the economy at least fairly bad. [NBC/WSJ 6/09] [NYT/CBS 6/09]

By 27% to 25% folks think the economy is getting better. This is a substantial improvement over January, considering 54% to 7% thought the economy was getting worse at that time. [NYT/CBS 6/09]

46% think the economy will get better over the next 12 months, while 22% think it will get worse. This is more optimistic than in December, when only 36% thought it would get better, 28% thinking it would get worse. By the same token, 70% think it will be more than a year before the current economic recession is over and 38% think it will be at least two years. [NBC/WSJ 6/09]

49% say they have just enough income to pay bills and oligations, while 22% say they do not have enough. 36% are very concerned (an additional 28% somewhat concerned) about whether they or someone in their household might be out of work and looking for a job in the next 12 months. [NYT/CBS 6/09]

55% are currently somewhat satisfied with their own financial situation. There has been no change since January. 53% to 46% are less than confident that Obama has the right goals and policies to improve the economy. [NBC/WSJ 6/09]

Below is a list of the most important financial problems facing American families today as described by respondents:

  • 15% Lack of money/low wages
  • 15% Noted no financial problems
  • 12% Cost of owning/renting home
  • 11% Healthcare costs
  • 10% Unemployment/loss of job
  • 10% Too much debt
  • 6% College expenses - high cost of living
  • 4% Retirement savings - investments
  • 3% Taxes - lack of savings - energy/oil and gas prices
  • 3% Energy costs/oil gas prices

[Gallup 4/09]

57% are not confident that their children's generation's lives will be better than their own.

Unemployment continues to grow. The unemployment rate reached 9.4% in May.

  • 14,500,000 are unemployed
  • 787,000 were added to the rolls in May
  • 3,900,000 have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more

52% of Americans between the ages 50-64 are now contemplating delaying their retirement as a consequence of the current recession. This includes 61% of the women and 45% of men.

In an open ended question as to what is the single most important problem facing the country, the following, from the NYT/CBS survey, is a demonstration of what a difference a year or two can make.

June 2007 July 2008 June 2009
Heath care 9% 3% 7%
Economy 5% 38% 38%
Jobs 1% 3% 19%
War/Iraq 31% 14% 4%

Between February 1976 and late October 2001, there was only one time (June 1983) when a majority (51%) of Americans trusted the government in Washington to do what is right, at least most of the time. In late October 2001, 55% trusted the government most of the time. It has been down hill since then. In October 2008, 83% said the government could be trusted to do what is right only some of the time. In June 2009, 79% hold that view.

56% currently believe the Federal Government is doing too many things thatare better left to businesses and individuals. [NYT/CBS 6/09]

54% to 41% ,Americans prefer a smaller government with fewer services as opposed to larger government with more services. [WP/ABC 6/09]

Now that regulation of the tobacco industry has been placed in the hands of the Food & Drug Administration, the American public is ambivalent. By 52% to 46% the public disapproves of the new legislation. Not surprisingly, 69% of smokers disapprove the new law, but so do 50% of nonsmokers. [Gallup 6/09]

74% of those asked think it is at least somewhat important (43% very important) for the membership of the Supreme Court to to reflect the gender, ethnic and racial makeup of the country as a whole. 62% of respondents believe that ,when voting on a Supreme Court nominee, the Senate should consider the nominee's personal views, as well as their legal qualifications. 76% believe it is at least somewhat important for the Senate to know the nominee's position on such issues as abortion and affirmative action. [NYT/CBS 6/09]

A word seems to make a difference. When told that the United States has been holding a number of "detainees" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 45% to 42% Americans think the government should continue to operate the prison. However, if asked the very same question with the word "terrorists" substituted for "detainees," by 48% to 40% Americans believe it should be closed. And, of those who said the prison should be closed, 38% to 7% support having these folks transfered to maximum security prisons in the United States. [NYT/CBS 6/09]

58% view the Republican Party unfavorably, while 57% view the Democrats favorably. [NYT/CBS 6/09]

Women are more likely to identify as Democrats (41%) than men (32%). Men are slightly more likely (28%) than women (25%) to identify as Republicans. More men (34%) than women (26%) describe themselves as Independents.

Single women are more Democratic than married women or women who are separated. [Gallup Jan-May, 2009]

38% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, while only 7% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents have that view about their Party. [Gallup 6/09]

For the first time since 2003-04, 40% of Americans now consider themselves to be conservative, as opposed to 21% who see themselves as liberals, and 35% who describe themselves as moderates.

The conserative group includes 73% of Republicans, 22% of Democrats, and 34% of Independents. 38% of Democrats, 3% of Republicans, and 20% of Independents say they are liberals. [Gallup 6/09]

Charitable giving fell 5.7% from 2007 to 2008, the largest year-to-year decline in 5 decades. [NYT 6/10/09]

There are now more households in the United States which have only cellphones (20%) than there are homes that only have land lines (17%). This compares with only 3% of households that had only cellphones in the first half of 2003. [NYT 5/7/09]

For the first time since 1995 (when the question was first asked), a considerably larger number of people (51%) consider themselves "pro-life" then consider themselves to be "pro-choice."

When the Gallup organization first began asking the question in mid-1995, only 33% described themselves as "pro-life," as opposed to 56% who described themselves as "pro-choice."

In mid-2001 equal numbers (46%) described themselves as "pro-life" and "pro-choice."

Questions have been raised as to whether this recent result, which reflected a substantial change from 2008, when 44% were "pro-life" and 50% pro-choice, resulted from a bad sample. WW checked with the Gallup organization, in part to determine whether the Party split in this sample might be skewed. Gallup is quite comfortable with the sample.

Slowly, but inexorably, Americans are beginning to believe that gay couples should be allowed to marry. 5 years ago, 22% favored marriage for gays and lesbians. Today 33% are in favor. A total of 63% favor marriage or at least civil unions. This is an increase of 9 points since 2004. [NYT/CBS 6/09]

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