Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

April 2, 2011 12:00 PM

State of the Nation

Americans continue to believe that the country is on the wrong track. end of February the NBC/WSJ survey found 60% saying the country is on the wrong track. 31% said we were going in the right direction. In early March, the Bloomberg/FD survey also found 60% saying the country is on the wrong track, but only 26% who thought it was heading in the right direction.

27% of Americans think the economy will get better in the next 12 months. A similar number think it will get worse. In January 2003, 35% of Americans thought the economy would be getting better over the next 12 months; by May of that year 49% were positive about the economy. [NBC/WSJ 2/11]

It’s no surprise the number one issue folks worry about is the economy. That is how 71% responded in a recent Gallup survey. Second on the list, at 64%, was federal spending and the deficit; followed by 58% saying they worried a great deal about the availability of affordable healthcare. 57% worry a great deal about unemployment.

Looking back at the worry factor on these issues 10 years ago, there has been a dramatic change in concern about the economy. Only 35% worried about the economy a great deal in 2001. Unemployment was a great worry of only 30% , but 60% were concerned even then about affordability and availability of healthcare. The federal spending question was asked for the first time that year. [Gallup 3/11]

54% of Americans rate the current economy as poor. An additional 37% say it is fair. 37% think the economy will get worse during the next year. This is an increase in pessimism of 16 points since December 2008, when only 31% thought it would get worse.

87% of Americans think that the cost of living will rise in the next 12 months. 28% believe that increase will exceed 10%. 59% say that a drop in the unemployment rate is either a good or the best indicator of whether things are getting better.

48% of Americans know someone who is facing the threat of foreclosure, has been foreclosed upon, or both. [CNBC 3/11]

53% of Americans think the economy has not yet begun to recover. [WP/ABC 3/11]

Of the 46% of Americans who think the economy has begun to improve, 39% credit President Obama and 6 % credit the Republicans in Congress. 27% say that both are responsible, and a similar number say that neither of them is responsible. [WP/ABC 3/11]

The official Labor Department unemployment rate in March 2011 was 8.8%. However, there are millions of Americans who have stopped looking for work, even though they are willing to work. These individuals are not included in the Labor Department figure. Estimates are that, if they were included, the unemployment rate would be 10.5%. And even that number would not count those who are working part-time, but would rather be working full-time. If those Americans were also included, the unemployed/underemployed number would be 16%. [ABC 4/1/11 & WP 3/16/11]

Gallup surveys put the unemployment rate at 10.1% and the unemployed/ underemployed number at 19.4%. [Gallup 3/11]

23.1% of all mortgages, representing 11.1 million households, were “under water” in the last quarter of 2010. That is, the owners owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth in the market. [USAToday]

63% of American families incurred a drop in net worth from 2007-2009. [WP 3/25]

51% of Americans think the government should do more to meet the needs of people. 46% think the government is already doing too much. This is the largest number of those who think the government should be doing more since February 2009. [NBC/WSJ 2/11]

After the 2010 election, Republicans in Congress were thought to have a better approach to deficit reduction than the President by 35% to 24%. Now, each draws 20% support, while 52% say there is no difference between them.

When given several options with which to approach deficit reduction, 61% favor “lowering domestic spending,” and 49% favor “lowering military spending.” That is, however, only a slight increase over the 47% who are not in favor of reduced military spending.

65% oppose changes to Social Security/Medicare, and 67% oppose raising taxes. [PEW 3/11]

Asked about ways in which State governments might balance their budgets, 62% favor reducing the number of workers on State payrolls, while 65% express an interest in eliminating certain (unnamed) State programs.

Conversely, 66% oppose borrowing money by issuing bonds, and the same number oppose raising State income or sales taxes. [Gallup 3/11]

When thinking about the current budget debate, 63% think the Democrats in Congress will not go far enough ,and 62% think that President Obama will not go far enough in making cuts. On the other hand, 52% think the Republicans and the Tea Party supporters in Congress will go too far. [NBC/WSJ 2/11]

52% think the President has not been willing enough to compromise with the Republicans on the budget deficit. But 71% say the leadership of the Republican Party has not been willing enough to compromise with Obama. [WP/ABC 3/11]

As discussion rages over the next several months about the budget, the following may be a useful reference point.

The Federal Budget

40.7 % - Insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security)

23.8 % - Military

16.8 % - Other (education, infrastructure, environmental protection, farm subsidies, unemployment, food stamps)

12.3 % - Domestic discretionary (e.g. ,Teach for America, food safety, infrastructure)

6.5% - Interest on debt

[Ezra Klein, WP 2/16/11]

If a deal is to be made to avert a Federal government shutdown, it must happen by April 5th. (While the last continuing resolution does not run out until April 8th, new procedural rules in the House require that bills be available at least 72 hours before action is taken on the floor.)

Only 36% of Americans think it would be a good thing for the government to shut down for a few days because of a stalemate in Congress. 24% think it would be a good thing for the government to shut down for a few weeks. 73% think the latter would be a bad thing. [CNN/OR 3/11]

From 1985 through sometime in 2008, Americans consistently said that environmental protection was more important than economic development. As late as 2000, the spread of environmental protection over economic development was 40 points. Among Independents that spread was 45 points.

Now, by 54% to 36%, economic development is chosen over environmental protection. Among Independents, economic development is chosen over the environment by 50% to 41%.

In 2001, protecting the environment was chosen as a priority over development of U.S. energy supplies. By 2007, the spread had grown to 24 points, 58% favoring the environment over energy supplies.

By early 2009 the spread had disappeared, and 47% favored each position. Now, 50% choose development of energy supplies as more important than do the 41% who still put environmental protection first. [Gallup 3/11]

A year after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (healthcare reform) was passed and signed by the President, those who have worked to undercut support for the legislation seem to be winning the day.

-- 46% to 44% think it is a good thing rather than a bad thing

-- 44% to 39% think it will worsen medical care in the U.S.

-- 39% to 25% think it will worsen their own medical care

27.8% of adults living in Texas do not have health insurance. This is the highest rate of any State. Next is Mississippi with 24.9% uninsured. At the other end of the spectrum is Massachusetts, the State that enacted its own comprehensive healthcare plan, with 4.7%; followed by Connecticut with 9.9% uninsured. [Gallup 3/11]

Hispanics now represent 16% of the 308 million people in the United States at the time of the last census – 50 million people. This is an increase of 15 million since the 2000 census, and a growth from 12.5% to 16% of the total population. 23% of all those in the U.S. who are seventeen years of age and younger are Hispanic. [Bureau of the Census]

Support for the Tea Party Movement has not grown since support was first measured in September 2010. 29% say they support the party now. 28% said that in 2010. [NBC/WSJ 2/11]

There was a substantial change in the number of solidly Democratic States from 2008 to 2010.

2008 2009 2010
Solid D 30 24 14
Lean D 6 10 9
Competitive 10 12 18
Lean R 1 1 5
Solid Republican 4 4 5

There are more folks in every State of the Union who self -identify as conservatives than there are those who identify as liberals. Only in the District of Columbia is there a larger percentage of self-identified liberals than conservatives.

There are more self-identified moderates than conservatives in 16 States and D.C., and more moderates than liberals in every State. [Gallup 2/11]

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