Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

June 25, 2011 11:59 AM

State of the Nation

62% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, while 29% say it is going in the right direction. This is a 12-point increase from last month, when 50% thought the country was on the wrong track.

30% believe the economy will get worse during the next 12 months, up from 21% who had that view in April. This is the most pessimistic the public has been in responding to this question since April 2009. Additionally, 35% say their personal economic situation has gotten worse during the past 12 months. [NBC 6/11, NBC/WSJ 4/11]

The official Labor Department unemployment rate for the month of May was 9.2%. That number does not include those who are working part-time, but would rather be working full-time. Gallup’s unemployment rate for mid-June is 8.9%. If you add in those who are working part-time, but would like to be working full-time, the total underemployment number in mid-June is 18.6, down from 19.2% at the end of May.

In early May, 26% of Americans were satisfied with the way things were going in this country. Now, in June, that number has fallen to 20%. [Gallup 6/11]

46% are hearing mostly bad news about the economy. This is 9% points higher than the number who said they were hearing mostly bad news in May. However, it is well below the 80% who were hearing mostly bad news in December 2008. [Pew 6/11]

On average, over the period January – May 2011, most folks thought the economy in general (29%) and unemployment/jobs (26%) were the two most important problems facing the country. The budget deficit drew #1 attention from 13%, and health care from only 10%. [Gallup 6/11]

89% of Americans believe that the economy is not so good (46%) or poor (44%). 57% believe the economy has not yet begun to recover. [WP/ABC 6/11]

41% believe that the worst of the economic recession is ahead of us. In September 2008, 75% had that view. [NBC/WSJ 6/11]

86% say that this is a bad time to find a job. [Gallup 6/11]

34% believe that the costs of Medicare and Social Security are already creating a crisis, while another 33% think that crisis will occur during the next 10 years. Again, those who are most concerned are those 30-49 years of age. 41% believe the crisis is now. [Gallup 5/11]

By 41% to 36%, respondents oppose a proposal that would change the way Medicare currently operates to a program in which participants would get a credit toward the purchase of private health insurance. It is no surprise that the level of opposition is affected by age. 51% of those over 50 years of age oppose the proposed change. But only 36% of those 30-49 years, and 28% of those 18-29 oppose it. [Pew 6/11]

66% are at least moderately worried about whether they will have enough money for retirement. 36% are very worried. The age group that is most concerned about this problem are those age 30-49 years, of which 77% are at least moderately worried. Gallup 6/11]

By 57% to 35%, Americans believe that money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed. By a slim margin, 49% to 47%, they do not believe that the redistribution should be accomplished through the tax system. 71% of Democrats, 52% of women, 64% of non-whites, 51% of those making $30-75,000, and 63% of those making less than $30,000 support redistribution through the tax system. 69% of Republicans, 53% of Independents, 54% of men, 56% of whites, and 67% of those making over $75,000 per year oppose tax system redistribution. [Gallup 6/11]

When given sufficient information so they have some understanding of the real-world impact of failing to raise the debt ceiling, such as not paying social security on time or not paying the regular military salaries when due, 46% of Americans would raise the debt ceiling. while 42% would not. [NBC/WSJ 6/11]

A recent Bloomberg Poll found 45% saying that Republicans should hold out for more spending cuts in exchange for voting for a debt limit increase. 46% express the opposite view. [Bloomberg Poll 6/11]

There are a variety of Federal expenses which Americans are willing to see cut in order to cut the Federal deficit:

  • Reduce foreign aid - 72%
  • Raise Social Security contribution cap – 67%
  • Raise taxes on incomes over $250,000 – 66%
  • Reduce overseas military commitments – 65%
  • Limit tax deductions for large corporations - 62%
There are other expenditures that a majority are not willing to see cut or eliminated:

  • Taxation of employer-provided health insurance – 73%
  • Reduce funding to States for education/roads – 73%
  • Gradual increase in Social Security retirement age – 50%
  • Reduction of programs that help low income – 54%
  • Reduction of Social Security for high-income seniors – 54%
A plurality (49%) are willing to see the mortgage interest deduction cut. They split 43% to 43% on whether agriculture subsidies should be reduced. [PEW 6/11]

86% of college graduates say that college was a good investment for them. But 75% say that a college education has become “too expensive” for most people. The average student loan at graduation is $27,204, and 24% of student borrowers say paying off their loans can affect their career choice. [PEW 3&4/11, Wash Post 5/11, PEW ]

In the last 50 years the number of children under 18 years of age who lived apart from their fathers or mothers has grown. In 1960, 11% of those young people lived apart from their father. Now that number stands at 27%. 50 years ago, 4% of children lived apart from their mothers, now that number is 8%. [Pew 6/11]

38% think that the overall state of moral values in the United States is poor. That is the lowest number Gallup has found in asking the question since 2002. Only 23% think the state of moral values is excellent/good.

51% of Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong, while 39% find it morally acceptable. 45% describe themselves as pro-life and 49% see themselves as pro-choice. 68% of Republicans see themselves as pro-life (27% pro-choice). Only 32% of Democrats are pro-life (62% are pro-choice).

48% think doctor-assisted suicide is morally wrong, while 91% think married men and women having an affair is morally wrong. 36% think it is morally wrong for unmarried men and women to have sex.

92% believe in God. This is down only slightly from the 96% that Gallup found when it first asked the question in 1944. The percentage of believers reached a high of 98% in the 50s and 60s. [Gallup 5 & 6/11]

In May, 45% of respondents identified themselves as Democratic/Lean Democratic. 39% identified themselves as Republican/Lean Republican. This is roughly the same split that was found in January and March. [Gallup 5/11]

38% of Americans have positive feelings about the Democratic Party and 39% have negative feelings. 30% have positive feelings about the Republican Party and 44% have negative feelings. [NBC/WSJ 6/11]

By 41% to 32%, Americans trust Democrats more than the Republicans to cope with the problems facing the nation over the next few years. [WP/ABC 6/11]

The Pew Research Center recently issued its picture of the philosophical political positioning of Americans. There are some differences in that picture between the general public and registered voters.

General Public Register Voters
Mostly Republican
Staunch Conservatives (Highly engaged Tea Party Support) 9 11
Main Street Republicans  11 14
(Conservative on most issues) [20] [25]
Mostly Independent

Libertarians (Free Market, small gov’t seculars) 9 10
Disaffected (Downscale and cynical) 11 11
(Mods, liberal on social issues) [33] [35]
Mostly Democratic

New Coalition Democrats (Upbeat, majority-minority) 10 9
Hard-Pressed Democrats (Religious,financial struggling) 13 15
Solid Liberals 14 16
(Across-the-board liberals) [37] [40]
Bystanders 10 0
(Young, politically disengaged) [10] [0]

47% have the view that Wall Street hurts the economy more than it helps – 38% hold the contrary view. 54% believe business makes too much profit. [Pew]

Confidence in Institutions

In 2011, Americans are more confident in the military and less confident in the Congress than they have been historically.

Among 17 institutions tested, the Congress is the one in which folks have the least confidence. Only 12% have confidence in Congress, while 48% have little or no confidence in the Senate and House.

On the other hand, the military, which historically has had a positive confidence rating of 67%, is now regarded positively by 78%.

Among the other institutions of government:

Great deal / quite a lot of confidence Very little / none
The Presidency 35% 36%
The U.S. Supreme Court 37% 20%
The Police 56% 13%
In business:

Small business 64% 8%
Big business 19% 39%
Banks 23% 36%
In media:
Newspapers 28% 31%
Television News 27% 32%
[Gallup 6/11]

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