Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

April 2, 2010 11:59 PM

State of the Nation

Public opinion as to whether the country is headed in the right direction or is on the wrong track is static since December. In the NBC/WSJ poll, the wrong track number continues to edge up, while the right direction number has not moved.

March 33/59% xxxx 38/60%
February xxxx 33/62% xxxx
January 2010 34/54% 36/55% 37/62%
December 33/55% 37/56% xxxx
October 35/52% xxxx 44/54%
September 39/48% 41/53% xxxx
August xxxx xxxx 44/55%
July 39/49% 42/49% xxxx
June 42/46% 44/50% 47/50%
April 43/43% 39/53% 50/48%
February 2009 41/44% 23/68% 31/67%

Satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States dropped to 19% in early March. As recently as August 2009, satisfaction was recorded at 36%. Since Gallup began using this measurement in 1979, this is only the 3rd time that satisfaction has dropped below 20%. The lowest reading, 7%, was recorded in October 2009. [Gallup]

In January 2008, Gallup, along with Healthways, began tracking how Americans were evaluating their lives – were they "thriving, struggling or suffering?"

In late 2008, 37.4% said they were striving, while 58.3% said they were struggling. By February 2010, there had been a substantial change in views. 53.7% now say they are "thriving," while 42% say they are "struggling."

Those who said they were suffering reached a high in early 2009 of 4.7%. Today that number is 3.4%.

In early March, 55% of Americans said that "unemployment" (31%) and the "economy in general" (24%) were the most important problems facing the country. [Gallup]

This reflects little change from February, when 52% listed "jobs" (27%) and the "economy" (25%) as the most important problems. [CBS/NYT]

While the number of wholly unemployed is steady at 9.7%, when one takes into account those who are "underemployed" and those who have stopped looking, the real number is 20%.

61% of underemployed are not hopeful about finding jobs in the next month. This includes 55% of the unemployed and 68% of those working part- time. [Gallup 2/10]

Americans were asked:

What are one or two strengths that make you most optimistic about the future of the country?

  • 35% American people (spirit,strength)
  • 24% U.S. military strength
What are one or two weaknesses that make you most pessimistic about the future of the country?

  • 20% Poor governance (politics/congress/corruption
  • 15% Military/Homeland security/terrorism/war
  • 13% Economy
  • 11% Lack of healthcare for many
  • 10% Unemployment
[Gallup 2/10]

By 57% to 37% Americans are more concerned that the government will over-regulate business versus there not being enough regulation. [Gallup 2/10]

In 2000, 70% of respondents thought that protection of the environment should be a priority even if it resulted in curbing economic growth. 23% placed the economy first.

By 2004, 49% favored the environmental position and 44% favored the economy first position.

By 2007, the pro-environmental position had risen to 53% and the economy first position was at 37%.

Sometime in 2008, the lines crossed. Today only 38% place the environment first, while 53% want the focus to be on the economy, even if the environment suffers. [Gallup]

An increasing number of people believe that the "seriousness" of global warming is generally exaggerated. In early 2001, 30% had that view. Today the number is 48%. [Gallup]

53% say that the quality of the environment is only fair or poor. 46% say it is excellent or good. These are exactly the same number of respondents who held these views 10 years ago. During that period as many as 61% said the environment was only fair or poor. [Gallup]

64% think the U.S. is the #1 military power in the world, but 56% believe this will not be the case in 20 years. [Gallup 2/10]

44% of Americans now see China as the world's leading economic power, compared with 27% who continue to give that designation to the United States. Just over a year ago 41% of Americans thought the U.S. was the world's top economic power, with China running 2nd at 30%. [Pew Research Center 12/09]

Although there has been a certain amount of ebb and flow in attitudes, the number of people who believed in July 2009 that abortion should be legal under any circumstances (21%) is the same as it was in 1977 (22%). The number saying it should be illegal in all circumstances was 18% in July 2009 and 19% in 1977.

The number saying abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances was 55% in 1977 and 57% in 2009.

The number saying abortion should legal under any circumstance was as high as 34% in 1992, and the number saying it should be illegal in all circumstances was as low as 12% in 1995.

One thing that has changed is the relative attitudes of Republicans, Independents and Democrats when it comes to abortion being legal under any circumstances. In 1988, the attitudes of all three groups were in the 23%-25% range. Last year - legal in all circumstances - was supported by 31% of Democrats, 20% of Independents, and 12% of Republicans. [Gallup]

The last two years have seen a rather dramatic change in attitudes toward gun ownership. In April 2008, 56% felt that controlling gun ownership was more important than protecting the rights of gun owners (37%). Today 46% are supporting each of these positions, and the trend is clearly for protecting gun owners’ rights. [Pew Research]

There has been a democratization of news and information generally. There are an endless number of sources of information on the internet and the number is growing daily.

Much of the information flow on the internet is uncensored as to quality, accuracy and completeness.

As traditional media search for ways to compete in this new information- everywhere environment, many organizations have lowered their previous standards for accuracy and completeness.

In part, as a result of this lowering of standards, confidence in the mass media has declined. In 1999, 55% of resondents said they had at least a fair amount of confidence in the mass media. By 2009 that number had dropped to 45%. And those expressing little or no confidence in the media had risen from 44% in 1999 to 55% in 2009.

In a late March survey, USAToday/Gallup found that since early 2009, when roughly the same number of people described themselves as Independents and Democrats, there has been a surge in those describing themselves as Independents. Currently 39% describe themselves as Independents, 32% as Democrats, and 28% as Republicans.

The era of 6-day-a-week home mail delivery and post offices around the country open on Saturday may be coming to an end. Facing a financial crisis, the U.S. Postal service is proposing to end 6-day delivery and perhaps Saturday opening of post offices.

The public supports both ideas. The end of 6-day home delivery is supported by 78%, and of 6-day postal office hours by 68%.

But when asked about closing some post offices altogether, the limits of public support are very clear. 86% oppose that idea. [Gallup 3/10]

The demand for mail service has been much diminished by the advent and growth of email. Here are a few tidbits about email:

  • 1.4 billion email users worldwide
  • 90 trillion emails sent on the internet in 2009
  • On average 247 million emails are sent each day
  • 81% of emails sent each day (200 billion) are spam
  • 10.8% of adult internet users tweet

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