Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

September 13, 2013 12:00 PM

State of the Nation

62% say that the country is off on the wrong track, according to the most recent NBC/WSJ survey. This represents the highest number who feel the country is on the wrong track since 69% expressed that view in December 2011. 30% think the country is headed in the right direction. [NBC/WSJ 9/8/13]


Unemployment, which was at 7.8% when Obama was inaugurated, continued to rise until October 2009, when it hit 10%. For the month of August 2013 “unemployment” stands at 7.3%, down 2.7% from October 2009. It is down 0.1% from July. This number does not include people who are working part-time, but want full-time employment. Nor does it include those who have not looked for work in the last four weeks, but are available and have looked in the last 12 months. When those folks are added, we get an unemployed/underemployed number that is 13.7% for August 2013. [U.S. BLS] [All numbers seasonally adjusted]

Following is the August data for 2008-2013 (+Jan & Oct 2009):

  Aug 2008 Jan 2009 Aug 2009 Oct 2009 Aug 2010 Aug 2011 Aug 2012 Aug 2013
Unemployed 6.1 7.8 9.6 10.0 9.5 9.0 8.1 7.3
Unemployed+ 10.8 14.2 16.7 17.1 16.5 16.1 14.7 13.7

Gallup also does a survey which is a running, 30-day, rolling average. Note the unemployment/underemployment number varies from that put out by the BLS. (BLS surveys those 16 years of age and older, while Gallup surveys those 18 years of age and older.) For August, Gallup has unemployment at 8.7% and unemployment/underemployment at 17.4%

The data above, while accurate, does not tell the whole unemployment story. The calculations of unemployment by BLS are based on the percentage of Americans who were working or actively seeking work.

In 2007, 66% of Americans were on the job or actively seeking work

In September 2013, that number is 63.2%

If the same percentage of adults were in the work force today as in 2007, the unemployment rate would be 10.8%

There are 3 reasons for this drop in the work force

  • Older Americans are retiring
  • The participation rate for workers between 16-54 years of age fell sharply during the recession
  • Workers, especially women, are less likely to enter the workforce than they were in the early 2000s
  • The number of workers on disability insurance has doubled since 1995, reaching 8.8 million Americans
[The above is based on a story from the Washington Post 9/6/13]

58% of those 65 years of age and older work full time. This is an increase of 6% since 2002. [WP 9/1/13]

“21% of the married households in the United States in 2011 had at least one foreign-born spouse.” [U.S.Census Bureau/WP 9/6/13]

35% of Americans have confidence in the American medical system. This is the lowest confidence rate since 2008-09, when a similar number expressed confidence in the system. The most recent low point occurred in 2007 when confidence drooped to 31%. Prior to that score, the last time it fell below 35% was in 1993, when 34% expressed confidence. This previous low coincides with the debate over the Clinton health care plan. The highest level of confidence expressed in the last 20 years was 44% in the 2003-04 period. [Gallup 6/13]

Data from Pew Research Web Site

* 54% of the publics in 29 countries says that global climate change is a threat; only 40% of Americans agree

* 39% of U.S. adults are caring for an adult or child with significant health issues, up from 30% in 2010

* 8% of U.S. households with minor children are headed by a single father, up from 1% in 1960

* 65% of U.S. Hispanics, or 33.5 million, trace their family origins to Mexico

Kantar Media

Recently, Kantar Media organized a forum to discuss the future of the technology and methodology of polling. The event was organized by Elizabeth Wilner, Editor of Kantar US Insights, a new US-based insight website.

As part of the program, Kantar released parts of a recent survey called “Path to Public Opinion.” One thing that got my attention was the amount of detail provided about the methodology used in conducting what appears to be the beginning of a regular series.

Here are some of the findings and presentments.

* 67% say they pay “not much or no attention” to public opinion polls in deciding where they stand on important issues or which candidate they will support. Yet 59% say they do pay attention to surveys when considering what products and services to buy.

* 75% believe that most polls are biased toward a particular point of view.

* 64% trust polls taken by academic centers. Only 27% have that view about polls conducted by political parties or candidates. Polls conducted by news media organizations come up between the two, at 43%. At the bottom of the pile, only 16% trust polls taken by automated voice-recording firms.

* 46% consider news media the most accurate when representing current public opinon about a politician or policy. 6% have that view about Facebook and 3% say that about Twitter.

* 61% say they use social media sites to communicate with family and friends. Only 6% say they use it to communicate about issues and causes.

* 91% of Americans own cell phones. 36.5% of Americans have only a cell phone. [Center for Disease Control]

An Example of Polling

The, theoretical at this point (McConnell faces a primary), general election race in Kentucky will match the incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell (R) against Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D).

The following are two general election surveys in that potential race. Both polls surveyed Likely Voters.

A Democrat-leaning pollster, using telephone interviews from July 20-24, 2013 had Grimes up by 2 pts, 44% to 42%. A Republican-leaning pollster, using robo calls from July 23-4, 2013, had McConnell up by 8 points, 48% to 40%

In recent weeks a great deal of attention has been paid to telephone and internet privacy, or the lack thereof . 86% of internet users have taken various actions designed to increase control of their own privacy. 55% of internet users have taken actions to protect their privacy against specific people, organizations, or the government.

Among internet users:

* 26% have had an email or social networking account compromised in somefashion

* 12% have been “stalked or harassed online”

* 11% have experienced theft of important personal information

* 12% have been scammed, had their reputation damaged, or been led into physical danger [Pew Internet 9/5/13]

If given the opportunity, 69% of Americans would vote against a proposed law that would limit the size of soft drinks to no more than 16 ounces. [Gallup 6/13]

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