Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

May 22, 2011 12:00 PM

State of the Nation

50% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, while 36% say it is going in the right direction. This is the most positive response reported since September 2009. Additionally, 25% believe the economy will get worse in the next 12 months, while 31% say it will get better. [NBC 5/11, NBC/WSJ 9/11]

Peter Hart believes that this far ahead of the Presidential election, the answers to the above two questions are the best predictors of how the President is likely to do in the coming election.

73% do not believe that the next generation will be better off economically than the current generation. [Battleground 5/11]

The official Labor Department unemployment rate for the month of April was 9.0%. That number does not count those who are working part-time, but would rather be working full-time. Gallup’s unemployment rate for mid-May is 9.2%. When those who are working part-time, but would like to be working full-time, are included, the total underemployment number rises to 19.2%.

Even though 47% of Americans think their homes are worth less now than they were before the recession, and 32% think it could take as long as 6-10 years for home values to recover, 81% still believe that homeownership is still a person’s best long term investment. [PEW 4/11]

78% of Americans believe that it is at least somewhat likely (32% very likely) that the U.S. will be the target of a major terrorist attack in the next few months in this country or overseas. [NBC 5/11]

From a set list of issues respondents were asked to select the single issue that they consider most important: [Battleground 5/11]

  • 28% economy and jobs
  • 20% government spending and the budget deficit
  • 11% education
  • 8% gas and energy prices
  • 7% Medicare and social security
  • 6% healthcare costs

47% of us believe that the government should redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich; 46% disagree. 71% of Democrats would increase taxes, while 28% of Republican share that view. Similarly, 63% of those who make less than $30,000 a year favor increasing the relevant taxes, while 67% of those making more than $75,000 per year say no. [Gallup 4/11]

When asked whether Democrats or Republicans in Congress will best handle certain issues, Republicans have the advantage in turning the economy around, creating jobs, controlling the deficit, and safeguarding America from terrorism. The Democrats have a slight advantage on social security, and the two Parties are seen as roughly equal when it comes to healthcare. [Battleground 5/11]

47% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Tea Party movement. 33% have a favorable view. This is the highest unfavorable score (by 5 points) and the lowest favorable (by 3 points) that Gallup has recorded since it began testing this question in spring 2010. [Gallup 4/11]

The “Parties” are over. There was a day when the national political parties and their state-based affiliates were the dominant force in campaigns and elections. They were actively involved in recruiting candidates, in developing the issues on which they ran, and providing financial support. That day of dominance has long since passed. The Parties no longer drive policy, they don’t influence the selection of the candidates who run carrying their banner, nor do they finance them.

Today, all that is left of the Democratic and Republican Parties is a mechanism. They provide the formal structure at the local, State and national levels through which candidates secure the right to carry the Partys’ banners. They are convenient collection vehicles for funds to be used for activities, such as voter registration, that candidates find useful and do not choose to handle themselves. Even those activities are effectively controlled by candidates and public office holders .

As of the end of April, both national committees were in a net debt position. The DNC was just under a million in the hole, and the RNC was about $14,000,000 behind the curve.

In the roles of encouraging candidacies and providing either direct or independent financial support there is a series of organizations other than the Parties. An example of these organizations are the House and Senate campaign committees and the two partisan Governors organizations. And there are various independent groups that have emerged, often organized and financed outside the legislated campaign finance system.

Many well-known and experienced political operatives are opting to work for these independent groups rather than the traditional Party structures.

Positive feelings toward the Democratic Party exceed those of the Republican party 41% to 32%. [NBC 5/11]

Are you a tweeter? If so, you are part of a relatively small group in this country. 8% of the 74% of American adults who use the internet own up to “tweeting.” There are more female “tweeters” than male “tweeters.” There are more “tweeters” in the 18-29 year age group than there are in the 30-64 year age range. And, no surprise, the smallest group of users are those 65 years of age and older. [Pew 3/11]

College-aged young people do not seem to be into “tweeting.” Recently, when I met with a group of 20 college students from a mix of schools, I first asked how many were on Facebook. 1 9 of 20 said they were. I then asked how many were “tweeting” and only 3 people raised their hands. When I asked why they were not tweeting, there was an extended silence before one young man piped up. “Well, sir,” he said, “we think that ‘tweeting’ is you old folks trying to act like us young folks.”

In 2009, 80% of internet sites tracked user behavior, 73% of social media profiles could be found through a public search engine, and, of the 58% of employers who checked out potential employees on social networking sites, 33% found information that caused them not to hire the person. [Money 5/11]

74% of those 65 years of age or older heard about the death of bin Laden on TV, while 3% first got word on the internet. This compares with 21% of those who are 18-34 years of age who first heard about it on the internet. [PEW 5/11]

One quarter of U.S. households do not have landline telephones. They can only be reached by cell phone. There are a variety of implications of this change, but one in particular relates to survey research. Telephone surveys that do not include an appropriate number of cell phone respondents should be viewed with a jaundiced eye. Notably, automated polls call only landlines.

An analysis conducted by the Pew Research Center during 2010 found that support for Republican candidates was slightly higher in surveys conducted only on landlines, as opposed to surveys conducted on landline and cell phone.

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