Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

December 22, 2009 10:59 PM

State of the Nation

In December 2008 local television news was the preferred daily source of news for 51% of Americans. Close behind, each with a 40% daily following, were local newspapers and cable news networks. The nightly network news programs followed with a 34% daily following, and the internet with a 31% score. The two categories that were growing were cable networks and the internet. [Gallup]

36% of Americans say they are following national politics very closely. This is the largest number in a non-Presidential election year since Gallup began tracking this question in 2001. [Gallup 9/09]

In 1999 55% of Americans said they had at least a fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media, while 44% said they had not much or no confidence at all. By 2009 Americans had reversed their positions, with 55% saying they had not much or no confidence in the mass media and 45% expressing the contrary view. [Gallup]

This December the NBC/WSJ asked respondents from which of the following national TV news sources they get most of their information about politics and current events. Respondents said:

  • Broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS or NBC: 36%
  • Fox News cable channel: 27%
  • CNN cable channel: 16%
  • Other national TV news sources: 7%
  • MSNBC cable channel: 5%
Where folks get most of their information does seem to affect their views (or perhaps they select news channels that they know reflect their views).

In the tables that appear at several places in this newsletter, you will find the varying views of all respondents, those for whom Fox is their primary TV news source, and those whose primary TV news source is other than Fox. [NBC/WSJ 12/09]

Total - All respondents in the survey
Fox - Fox is primary news source
Other - ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, other channels are primary news source

Public opinion as to whether the country is headed in the right direction or is on the wrong track continues to track negatively. However, the 55% who think the country is on the wrong track in the NBC/WSJ poll is a substantial improvement from a year ago, when 80% thought the country was on the wrong track.

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%
September 39/48% 41/53% xxxx
October 35/52% xxxx 44/54%
December 33/55% 37/56% xxxx

Total Fox Other
Country going in right direction 33% 11% 40%
Country on wrong track 55% 84% 44%

A substantial majority believe the country is in a state of decline.

Total Fox Other
America in a state of decline 61% 79% 54%
America not in a state of decline 25% 19% 41%

When asked to volunteer the most important problem facing the country today, the three top choices are jobs, the economy and healthcare. There have been some changes since January.

12/09 1/09
Jobs 24% 12%
Economy 23% 49%
Healthcare 12% 2
[CBS/NYT 12/09]

66% do not feel confident that "the life for our children's generation will be better than it has been for us."

46% believe that 2010 will be a better year for the country. 25% think it will be worse.

67% are at least somewhat satisfied with their current job security, while 32% are at least somewhat dissatisfied. These are about the same levels of satisfaction as a year ago.

15% think it is likely that they or someone in their household will lose his/her job in the next year. This is roughly the same number of folks who had this concern 10 years ago and 20 years ago.

32% report that they are providing some financial support for a child over the age of 21 or for relatives other than children or parents. [NBC/WSJ]

As a result of the recession, during the past year among 18-34 year olds,

  • 15% have postponed getting married
  • 14% postponed having a baby
  • 12% moved in with a roommate
  • 10% moved back in with their parents. [Pew 11/09]

Lack of money and low wages is the most important financial problem facing American families, say 17% of Americans in an open ended question. 14% say healthcare costs. [Gallup 11/09]

CBS/New York Times conducted a poll in early December that oversampled the unemployed. It then published the findings of its regular poll and separately reported the results from unemployed persons. There are a number of questions in which the answers of the unemployed are quite different than the population at large.

Regular sample Unemployed
Obama job approval 50% 61%
Approve Obama handling of economy 47% 57%
Approve Obama handling of healthcare 42% 55%
Approve Obama handling of job creation 38% 47%
Recession has been a hardship 24% 49%
Do you have health insurance 87% 52%

About 23% of homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. More than a half million homeowners have received notices of default. [WSJ 11/24/09]

Charities are feeling the pinch of the current economic conditions. 21% of Americans say they will be giving less to charity this year than in past years. 13% say they are likely to give more. [WP 11/09]

The Tea Party Movement (TPM) is an organizational effort begun on April 15, 2009, by three conservative organizations: FreedomWorks, dontGO, and Americans for Prosperity.

52% of respondents to the recent NBC/WSJ survey knew at least something about the TPM. with only 7% knowing a great deal about it. 48% knew little or nothing.

All respondents to the survey were asked whether they were positive or negative about the Tea Party Movement. Here is how they responded, as compared to the same group of respondents’ assessment of the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Positive Negative Neutral
Tea Party Movement 41% 23% 21%
Democratic Party 35% 45% 19%
29% 43% 27%

While the Tea Party Movement is still a bit amorphous, it is more popular than either the Democratic or Republican Parties. 41% have positive feelings about the Tea Party Movement, while 35% express positive feelings toward the Democratic Party, and 28% are positive toward the Republicans.

Total Fox Other
Identify as Democrat 40% 14% 50%
Identify as Republican 34% 61% 24%
Positive Feelings toward Dem Party 35% 10% 45%
Negative Feelings toward Dem Party 45% 77% 32%
Positive Feelings toward Repub Party 28% 45% 22%
Negative Feelings toward Repub Party 43% 27% 40%
Pos Feel toward Tea Party Movement 41% 76% 27%
Neg Feel toward Tea Party Movement 23% 5% 31%

From a list of 10 people who have been public officials in the last decade, respondents were asked to select one or two people for whom they had the "most" regard and respect, and one or two for whom they had the "least" regard and respect. [153 specific choices were recorded.]

The differences between the selections of all respondents versus those who have Fox as a primary TV news source, and those who do not have Fox as a primary source, are notable.

Barack Obama and Colin Powell were first and second in the minds of the total sample as being the people for whom they had the most regard. George Bush and Dick Cheney headed the list of those for whom they had the least regard.

Among Fox viewers the results were dramatically different. Heading the list of most respected were George Bush and Sarah Palin. Al Gore and Barack Obama headed the list of least respected.

Those whose primary news sources was other than Fox rank the officials in both categories roughly the same as the total sample.

The person who was effectively best regarded by all three groups was Colin Powell. Powell finished 2nd among the total group and the non-Fox viewers, and 3rd among Fox viewers. When it came to the list of the least regarded he was at the bottom of the list of all 3 groups.

For which of these people do you have the most regard and respect:

Total Fox Other
Barack Obama 28% 4% 37%
Colin Powell 27% 26% 27%
Bill Clinton 21% 13% 24%
George W. Bush 17% 36% 11%
Hillary Clinton 14% 4% 18%
John McCain 13% 16% 11%
Sarah Palin 13% 29% 7%
Dick Cheney 9% 23% 4%
Al Gore 8% 1% 10%
Joe Biden 3% 1% 4%

For which of these people do you have the least regard and respect:

Total Fox Other
George W. Bush 33% 13% 41%
Dick Cheney 27% 8% 33%
Al Gore 19% 41% 10%
Barack Obama 19% 35% 12%
Sarah Palin 16% 7% 14%
Bill Clinton 14% 16% 13%
Hillary Clinton 10% 10% 10%
Joe Biden 9% 19% 5%
John McCain 5% 3% 6%
Colin Powell 1% 2% 1%

22% of all U.S. households do not have telephone land lines. [CDC]

The more important religion is to an individual, the more likely that he or she will identify as a Republican. The less important religion is in a person's life, the more likely they are to identify as a Democrat.

Among the most highly religious, 49% identify as Republican and 37% as Democrats. Among those who are not very religious, 26% identify as Republicans, while 56% identify as Democrats. [Gallup 12/09]

There have been a few changes in how we rate the honesty and ethics of various professions.

Continuing to top the list are nurses, who get a very high/high rating from 83% of respondents (-1 point from 2008). In second place are pharmacists at 66% (-4 points) and doctors at 65% (+1 point).

Police officers showed the greatest increase in their rating, reaching 63% (+7 points).

The biggest losers were clergy, who dropped from 56% to 50%, and bankers, who dropped from 23% to 19%.

As usual, car salespeople, at 6%, bottomed the list. [Gallup 12/09]

As of August 2008

  • Full-time civilian employment in the U.S. - 112,260,000
  • Total part-time employment - 27,600,000
    • Total employment - 139,862,000
  • Total work force of all governments - 22,487,000
  • Total U.S. government civilian work force w/o Post Office - 1,800,000
  • Total U.S. government civilian work force with the Post Office - 2,821,000
  • U.S. miliary - 1,454,000
  • U.S. military reserves - 848,000

Return to Home Page