Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

August 23, 2014 7:00 AM

State of the Nation

In early August the NBC/WSJ poll found that 71% of us think the country is on the wrong track. In the last year the wrong track number has ranged from a low of 62% (9/13) to a high of 78% (10/13).

76% are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States. 2% are satisfied. [Gallup 8/14]

The official BLS unemployment rate for July 2014 is 6.2%, up a point from the previous month, but still down 1.1% points from a year ago. If one takes into account the total unemployed + those marginally attached to the labor force + those working part-time who want full-time work, the rate is 12.2%. This is down from 13.9% a year ago. 2.9% of the work force has been unemployed for 15 weeks or more. This is about where it was in June, and 1% point lower than it was one year ago.

In the second week of August, Gallup found an unemployment rate of 6.3%. It also found an underemployment rate (unemployed +those working part-time, but wanting full time) of 15%, about the same as in mid-July.

Over the last six weeks the Gallup Job Creation Index has been at +28, with a blip upward to 29 in July. The index was at +22 one year ago.

2.54 million people continued to receive jobless benefits in the last week of July. [BLS]

There were 4.670 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. in the month of June, up from 4.58 million in May. So, there are about 2 unemployed people for each available job. However, these numbers do not take into account where the jobs are located and whether the unemployed have the qualifications required for the available jobs.

By 47% to 44%, Republicans in Congress are seen as more focused on job creation and growing the economy. This is quite different from a year ago when 50% thought Obama was more focused, while 39% had that view about Republicans. [Winston Group]

45% say they are spending more than they were a year ago. 18% say they are spending less. [Gallup 8/14]

One year ago, 29% of employed people in the United States were afraid that they might be laid off. Today that number is 19%. On reduction of benefits, their fears have dropped from 43% to 34%; on reduction of wages, from 31% to 24%.

The most recent NBC/WSJ survey (8/14) provides a particularly vivid picture of what Americans think of America.

* 76% are not confident that “life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us”

* 62% are dissatisfied with America’s role in the world

* 79% are dissatisfied with the political system

* 64% of Americans are dissatisfied with the state of the U.S. economy

* 50% say the economy is improving. About half of the 50% say the improvement is for all economic levels, while the other half say it is mostly for the highest economic level.

On each of the issues above, women and men are relatively the same in their views. However, there is a series of issues for which there is a significant gender split:

* 52% of men believe America is a country where anyone can succeed. 37% of women share that view.

* 54% of women believe we are still in a recession. 43% of men share that view.

* 70% of women think that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would have a positive impact on the economy. 49% of men share that view.

* 74% of women think that increasing taxes on the richest 1% would have a positive impact. 54% of men share that view.

A recent Annenberg study found that 65% of us believe that the greater challenges to this country come from things happening within, while 23% say the greater challenge comes from without. [7/15/14]

In 2006, 91% of Americans said they felt free to choose what they wanted to do with their lives. Now only 79% of Americans express that sense of freedom. The United States now ranks 36th in a list of 120 countries in which Gallup asks the same question.

There has been a significant change in what Americans voluntarily describe as the most important problem facing the country today. In January the number one issue was

  • “dissatisfaction with government/Congress/politicians; poor leadership/Corruption/Abuse of power” – 21%
  • Immigration/Illegal aliens was tied for 8th – 3%
In June dissatisfaction with government was edged out by the

  • Economy in general – 20%
  • Immigration was tied for 6th – 5%
Then, in July “Immigration/Illegal aliens” jumped to #1 – 17%. “Dissatisfaction” was 2nd; the Economy was 3rd

Finally, in August “dissatisfaction” has returned to #1 – 18%

  • Immigration is #2 – 15%
Unemployment has been 3rd or 4th on each of the lists

Assessment of the Supreme Court remains relatively low, with 47% approving of the Court and 46% disapproving. This is about where the public’s assessment of the Court has been for the past few years. As recently as late 2009 the Court’s work was approved by 61%, while 28% disapproved. [Gallup 7/14]

42% of us identify ourselves politically as Democratic/Leaning Democrat. This is the lowest Democratic identification that Gallup has found at this time in each of the last five mid-term election cycles.

40% identify politically as Republican/Leaning Republican. This is a lower number than any in the last five mid-term election cycles, except 2006 when it was also 40%.

In 2004, the average cost of tuition and fees at private, nonprofit colleges and universities was $18,950. From 2004 until 2014, the Consumer Price Index rose 26%. If tuition and fees only grew with the CPI, those costs would now be $23,910. In fact, the average cost of tuition and fees at private, nonprofit colleges and universities is $30,094 in 2014. A increase of nearly 59%. [Tuition numbers from the WSJ 8/16/14]

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