Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

November 23, 2013 12:00 PM

State of the Nation

In the third week of November the WP/ABC poll found that 70% of us think the country is on the wrong track. In the last week of October the NBC/WSJ survey found the wrong track number to be 70%. This compares with the second week of October when the NBC/WSJ found that 78% of us thought the country was on the wrong track. This was the highest wrong track number the NBC/WSJ poll has found since Barack Obama became President.

In the same end-of-October survey 63% of Americans said they think that America is in a state of decline.

The 16 day shutdown of the Federal Government in early October was the 18th shutdown since 1976. The most recent shutdown is the longest since 1978.

Here is a list of all 16 shutdowns:

1976 – 10 days
1977 – 3 shutdown, 12 days, 8 days, 8 days 1978 – 18 days
1979 – 11 days
1981 – 2 days
1982 – 2 shutdowns, 1 day, 3 days
1983 – 3 days
1984 – 2 shutdowns, 2 days, 1 day
1986 – 1 day
1987 – 1 day
1990 – 3 days
1995 – 5 days
1996 – 21 days
2013 – 16 days

36% of Americans say blame for the most recent government shutdown is equally shared by Obama and Republicans in Congress. 38% place blame on the Republicans and 23% on the President. 50% think it is likely there will be another shutdown in January, when the current government funding bill runs out. Only 28% think it is not likely. [NBC/WSJ 10/28/13]


For the month of September 2013, “unemployment” stood at 7.2%. Then, in October, with the Federal Government closed for 16 days, unemployment stood at 7.3%, down 2.7% from October 2009. These numbers do 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 13.6% for September and 13.8% for October 2013. [U.S. BLS] [All numbers seasonally adjusted]

Following is data for 2008-2013:

  Aug 2008 Jan 2009 Oct 2009 Oct 2010 Oct 2011 Oct 2012 Sep 2013 Oct 2013
Unemployed 6.1 7.8 10.0 9.5 8.9 7.9 7.2 7.3
Unemployed + 10.8 14.2 17.1 16.7 16.0 14.5 13.6 13.8

Gallup also does a survey which is a 30-day rolling average. Note that 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 September, Gallup has unemployment at 7.6% and unemployment/underemployment at 17.0%. For October, unemployment is recorded as 7.4% and unemployment/underemployment at 16.5%.

15% of those under the age of 25 in the United States are unemployed. (New York Times 10/26/13)

As the discussion goes forward on how to cut the Federal budget, playing around with Social Security may be particularly difficult.

41% would increase Social Security/ 46% would leave it the same – 87%
  • Democrats 49% increase/46% same -- 95%
  • Republicans 35% increase/45% same -- 80%
  • Independents 37% increase/45% same -- 82%
At end of 2012, 57 million people were receiving retirement, disability or survivor’s benefits, at a cost of $768 billion. 161 million people paid payroll taxes.

Since 2010, Social Security’s cash expenses have exceeded its cash receipts.

Based on the current benefit formulas, and assuming that the cap on taxable income is not raised, Social Security’s reserves will be depleted somewhere between 2031 and 2033. [Pew Research Center 10/16/13]

Gallup Potpourri

49% of us believe that the laws covering the sale of firearms “should be made more strict,” while 13% believe they should be less strict. 37% would keep the laws as they are now.


Of those who own guns, 60% say they do so for personal safety/protection; 36% for hunting; 21% for recreation/sport/target shooting.


60% favor the death penalty “for a person convicted of murder.” 80% held that view in 1994.


78% of all Americans say they are registered to vote. This number includes 85% of Non-Hispanic whites, 81% of Non-Hispanic Blacks, 60% of Asians, and 51% of Hispanics. It appears that there are substantial differences between the registration rates of Asians and Hispanics who are born outside the United States and those who are born in this country.

75% of Asians who were born in this country say they are registered, but only 52% of those born outside the country.

76% of Hispanics who were born in this country say they are registered, but only 31% of those born outside the country.


No surprise, between 2002 and 2013 there has been a dramatic increase in the use of the internet by U.S. adults.

  2002 2013  
All adults 6.1 7.8 +18
65 and older 33 65 +32
50-64 years of age 56 87 +31
High school or less 51 77 +26
More than $20,000 in household income 42 73 +31


52% believe there is “plenty of opportunity” in the United States today. This is down from 87% in 1952; 81% in 1998; and 57% in 2012. 43% say there is not much opportunity, up from 8% in 1952.


In 1998, 68% believed that the economic system in the United States was basically fair. Today, the number who hold that view is 50%. No surprise, 67% of Republicans see the system as fair, but only 38% of Democrats have that view. 52% of Independents believe it is fair.


55% of Americans believe that crime is a serious problem in this country. However, only 13% have that view about the area in which they live. [Gallup October, November, 2013


Americans are increasingly concerned about healthcare in the United States. In early September, 10% said that poor healthcare/high cost of healthcare was the most important problem facing the country. By early October, 12% had that view and by early November 19% made that call. [Gallup]

57% oppose the “federal law making changes to the health care system.” [WP/ABC 11/13]

The Affordable Care Act was designed to deal with both of these issues. Instead, the rollout of the ACA has become the issue that has eclipsed all others. The Administration seems to be unable to change the subject no matter how many speeches the President makes.

To make matters worse only 37% of respondents believe that the ACA is a totally good idea. 47% believe it is a totally bad idea.

At no time since the ACA became law in March 2010, have more that 40% of Americans thought it is a good idea. Only in January 2011, when 39% thought it was a good idea and 39% thought it was a bad idea, has the number thinking it is a bad idea not exceeded those who think it is a good idea. [NBC/WSJ 10/28/13]

58% of Americans support requiring companies with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance to their employees or pay a fine. However, 65% oppose the requirement that all Americans have health insurance or pay a fine. [WP/ABC 11/13]

Return to Home Page