Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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Jan 27th, 2010

“Fed up with Congress, the country’s two main political parties, and the federal government”

American Public Fed up with Washington

By Mark Murray
Deputy political director
NBC News
Jan. 26, 2010

Mark Murray
Deputy political director

WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address Wednesday night [Jan. 27, 2010], he will be speaking to an American public that’s fed up with Congress, the country’s two main political parties, and the federal government, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Only 28 percent believe the federal government is “working well” or even works “okay,” versus seven in 10 who think its “unhealthy,” “stagnant” or needs large reforms.

By comparison, in December of 2000 — during the height of the disputed Bush-Gore presidential election — 55 percent said the government was working well or okay.

What’s more, a whopping 93 percent believe there’s too much partisan infighting; 84 percent think the special interests have too much influence over legislation; nearly three-quarters say that not enough has been done to regulate Wall Street and the banking industry; and an equal 61 percent complain that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress aren’t willing to compromise.

And the percentage who believe the country is headed in the wrong direction now stands at 58 percent, the highest level of Obama’s presidency.

“The message is a big one,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “The message is, ‘We hate what’s going in Washington.'”


NBC poll: ‘Too much partisan fighting’ (NBC Nightly News, Jan. 26, 2010) — President Obama faces a skeptical audience on Wednesday’s State of the Union, with 58 percent of Americans believing the country is on the wrong track, according to a recent NBC/WSJ poll. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports. (03:16)

Public’s anger isn’t directed at Obama

Indeed, the NBC/Journal survey finds that nearly half of the country (48 percent) said last week’s stunning election in Massachusetts, in which Republican candidate Scott Brown won a Senate contest in one of the nation’s most Democratic-leaning states, was aimed at sending a message to Washington. Only 15 percent disagreed.

But if the public is fed up with Washington, its anger isn’t necessarily directed at President Obama.

Only 27 percent say they blame him for not being able to find solutions to the country’s problems. By contrast, 48 percent blame Republicans in Congress and 41 percent blame congressional Democrats.

“The president has problems,” Hart adds, “but the Congress has much bigger problems.”

Obama’s numbers, in fact, are virtually unchanged from last week’s poll, which was released on the day of the Massachusetts election.

The president’s approval rating inched up two points to 50 percent, while the number believing his health care plan is a good idea declined two points to 31 percent.

“This data set reminds us that the Scott Brown election has been a huge event in Washington, D.C.,” said McInturff, the Republican pollster. “But around the country, I think this polling would suggest that it had a modest effect.”


Obama to hit reset button in speech? (MSNBC Hardball, Jan. 27, 2010) – Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and NBC’s Chuck Todd discuss how President Barack Obama should lay out his agenda in Wednesday’s State of the Union. (10:29)

Focus more on the economy, less on health care

However, the poll also suggests the public wants Obama to refocus his priorities: 44 percent say he has given too much attention to health care, 16 percent say he’s given it too little attention and 38 percent say he’s given it the right amount.

On the other hand, 51 percent maintain he’s given the economy too little attention, compared with only 5 percent who say he’s given it too much attention and 42 percent who say he’s given it the right amount of attention.

Still, a majority of Americans continue to have high hopes for Obama. A combined 54 percent either say that he’s facing a short-term setback from which he’ll rebound or that he’s not facing a setback at all.

That’s compared with 42 percent who say he’s facing a long-term setback from which he’ll unlikely recover.

GOP’s enthusiasm edge

Looking ahead to this year’s midterm elections, 44 percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 42 percent who want a GOP-controlled one. Last week’s survey showed a 41-41 percent tie on this question.

But Republicans continue to enjoy a significant enthusiasm advantage. Voters who are most interested in November’s midterms prefer a Republican-controlled Congress by a 49-41 percent margin.

Yet the poll also provides evidence that Obama might be more of an asset than a liability in November. Thirty-seven percent say their vote will be a signal of support for the president, while 27 percent say it will be a signal of opposition; 35 percent said it won’t signal anything about Obama.

The poll was conducted of 800 adults from Jan. 23-25 [2010], and it has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.

More: See the full NBC/WSJ poll (PDF)



The State of the Union Is Comatose

By Frank Rich
Op-Ed Columnist

January 23, 2010


On State of the Union day, the Republican National Committee gathered at its winter meeting at Waikiki Beach to battle over a measure that would deny campaign funds to candidates who didn’t pass a Tea Party ideological purity test. … On the Hill that morning, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota led House colleagues in signing a “Declaration of Health Care Independence” to complement a bill that would let Americans “purchase insurance with their own tax-free money.” Gee, why did no else think of that ingenious fix for a health care system that leaves 46.3 million uninsured and whose runaway costs are on track to eat up one-fifth of the American economy?


Rep. Michele Bachmann reacts to President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address [Update: St. Cloud Times video no longer available]

Rep. Michele Bachmann reacts at President Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — January 27, 2009

Image: Pakistani Islamist party Jamat-e-Islami protests
Supporters of the Pakistani Islamist party Jamat-e-Islami protest U.S. drone attacks in Karachi on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009. (Photo credit: Athar Hussain / Reuters)

Pakistanis Protest U.S. Airstrikes

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that the new Obama administration had a clear message for Pakistan: No change in U.S. policy when it comes to going after al-Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan’s lawless border areas.

2 Responses to “The State of the Union …”
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