Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

September 3, 2009 8:00 PM

State of the Nation

In recent months Americans have steadily become more pessimistic about the direction of the country. Depending on your survey of choice, the number who say it is on the wrong track ranges from 49% to 55%. The number who say it is on the right track ranges from 39% to 44%.

February 41/44% 23/68% 31/67%
April 43/43% 39/53% 50/48%
June 42/46% 44/50% 47/50%
July 39/49% 42/49% xxxx
August xxxx xxxx 44/55%

As pessimistic as the wrong track numbers are currently, they are a substantial improvement over the numbers recorded in the WP/ABC survey in October '08 - 90%; December '08 - 82% and January '09 - 78%.

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

24% of current job holders in America are very dissatisfied with their current job security. This is the highest number seen in the last 13 years. [NBC/WSJ 7/09]

50% are completely satisfied with their job security. The highest number of folks taking this position in the last 7 years was in mid-2007, when 56% had this view. [Gallup 8/09]

Currently employed Americans do have some concerns. They are worried about

2009 2008 (same time)
Being laid off 31% 15%
     College graduates 22% 13%
     Non-college graduates 36% 16%
Hours being cut back 27% 14%
Wages reduced 32% 16%
Benefits will be reduced 46% 27%

(Gallup 8/09)

Unemployment during July was 9.4%.

African Americans 14.5%
Hispanics 12.3%
Whites 8.6%
Youth 23.8%
Without high school diploma 15.4%
With high school degree 9.4%
With college degree 4.75%

Unemployment is expected to hit 10% before it begins to decline in any appreciable way. When the underemployed, those who went from full to part-time, etc., are added to the list, the over-all rate of unemployment pushes 16%.

Additionally, the country is experiencing the highest level of long-term unemployment – out of work for more than 27 weeks – since 1941. [Center for American Progress 8/14/09]

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]

There are signs that the public is feeling marginally better about the economy.

In July 56% of Americans said they were very dissatisfied with the state of the U.S. economy today. This was some improvement from the 70% who had that view in February. 44% believe that the economy will get better in the future, up from 38% in April. In the same time frame, 30% thought the economy was getting worse in April, but only 21% held that view in July. [NBC/WSJ 7/09]

And while 49% think this economic recession will last up to 2 years or longer, 70% held that view in February.

Up to 6 months 14%
Up to 1 year 35%
Up to 2 years 24%
Longer than 2 years 25%

27% now believe that the economy has hit bottom, which is an increase from 17% who had the view in February. The number who think the economy has a way to go before it hits bottom has dropped 20 points in February to 58%. [NBC/WSJ 7/09]

1.25 million people filed for bankruptcy between 7/1/08 - 6/20/09. This is up 34% from the previous 12 month period. 126,434 filed for bankruptcy protection this past July, an annualized rate of just over 1.5 million people. [WP 8/14/09] Some estimates project 1.8 million filings this year.

The S&P 500 may be up, but plain old consumer confidence is not. The week of August 23rd, 36% expressed confidence in the economy, which is down from 40% in the weeks of August 9th and 16th. 25% said the economy was improving the week of August 9th. Only 20% had that view the week of August 23 . [Gallup 8/09] rd

In the 12 month period ending April 2009, 58 million credit card holders had their limits slashed. [Associated Press 8/21/09]

At least 40% of U.S. workers saw the balance in their 401(K) plans drop by 30% or more in 2008. [WP 8/16/09]

68% of Americans expect that their Federal income taxes will be higher by the end of 2012 than they were when Obama took office. This includes 59% of those making less than $30,000; 65% of those making $30-75,000; and 80% of those making $75,000 or more. [Gallup 8/09]

Over the last 7 years the Federal Government's favorable rating has fallen from 64% to 42%; State governments from 62% to 50%; and local governments from 67% to 60%. There appears to be a correlation between the severity of the budget deficit in various States and their favorability ratings. The steeper the deficit, the lower the favorability rating. [PEW 8/09]

In 2000, by 65% to 24%, Americans thought that big government was likely to be the biggest threat to the country in the future. By 2003, the spread between the two had dropped to 9 points, 47% saying big government and 38% saying big business. In the spring of this year, the spread had opened once again, and 55% said the biggest threat was government and 32% selected big business. [Gallup]

In June only 68% of the country's industrial capacity was in use. This is the smallest usage recorded since 1967 when the Federal Reserve began recording this measurement. [Center for American Progress 8/14/09]

In the face of that sentiment, the Administration has announced that the 10-year deficit will be at least $9.05 trillion. Earlier, the Administration had predicted a $7 trillion deficit for the period.

Here is what makes up the debt:

  • $6,259 Billion - tax cuts and spending required under current law, including SS, Medicare, Medicaid in excess of revenues
  • $2,102 Billion - Extension of Bush tax cuts except for top earners
  • $546 Billion - AMT adjustment for inflation
  • $311 Billion - Maintain Medicare Doctor payment
  • $569 Billion - Interest
  • $527 Billion - New tax credits
  • $232 Billion - Non-defense discretionary spending
  • $177 Billion - Energy investments and other

Against those increases are the following planned reductions as a result of new revenues:

  • $106 Billion - Interest
  • $627 Billion - Energy revenue
  • $944 Billion - War phase-down
  • $295 Billion - Other proposals

Grand total deficit $ 9,051 Billion ($9.05 Trillion).

Of course, all of the above assumes that the new major initiatives like healthcare or climate change include proposed savings or revenues to match potential costs. [NYTimes 8/09 - OMB]

What do Americans think of the stimulus program? 41% say the program is making the economy better. 24% say that it is in fact making it worse. 51% say the government should have spent less on the economic stimulus. 65% oppose a second stimulus effort. [Gallup 8/09]

The consumption of bottled water has declined for the first time in a decade, from 8.8 billion gallons in 2007 to 8.7 billion gallons in 2008. [WP 8/15/09].

Anecdotally, a number of WW's favorite restaurants in Washington and New York City report a decline in the purchase of bottled water. Additionally, they report that many wine drinkers are buying less expensively priced bottles of wine than before this latest financial crisis.

During the first half of 2009 residents of Hawaii and North Dakota had the lowest stress levels in the nation. Residents of Kentucky and West Virginia were the most stressed. [Gallup 8/09]

By 61% to 39%, we are not worried that someone in our immediate family will catch the swine flu. [WP/ABC 8/09]

Political Composition Of The Nation

Democrats control the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal Government. Republicans dominate at least the top two layers of the 3rd branch of Government, the Judiciary.

Here is how the American public sees itself.

At the current time:

41% describe themselves as Democrats

  • 24% strong
  • 9% not very strong
  • 8% Ind/Lean Democrat

29% describe themselves as Republicans

  • 12% strong
  • 8% not very strong
  • 9% Ind/Lean Republican

[NBC/WSJ 7/09]

Conservatives are the dominant self-described philosophical group in the country. [Gallup 6/09]

Conservative 40%

  • Very 9%

Liberal 21%

  • Very 5%

Moderate 35%

And here are some other reflections of the political landscape.

There are 43 States (including D.C.) that at least tilt Democratic, 6 States that at least tilt Republican and 2 States that are about even.

Top 10 Democratic Top 6 Republican 2 Even
D.C. 77%  Utah 53% North Dakota
Massachusetts 60% Wyoming 52% Nebraska
Maryland 58% Idaho 48%
Hawaii 56% Alaska 47%
Vermont 56% Alabama 46%
Illinois 56% Mississippi 44%
New York 55%
Rhode Island 54%
Connecticut 54%
California 53%

Gallup [1-6/09]

People who are married are more likely to identify politically as Republican; at least that is the finding from the analysis of 29,0000 interviews conducted by Gallup in June.

All Adults 26% 35% 34%
Married 33 31 33
Not Married 31 41 36
Single / Never Married 20 40 36
Separated 17 37 42
Divorced 22 42 33
Widowed 26 42 28
Domestic Partners 12 41 44

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