AP Poll Shows Grim Sentiment

Earlier, Chris Good explained a Gallup poll's findings that people think that the world looks a lot better now than it did a year ago. Considering at that time we were in the midst of the worst financial crisis in decades, I didn't find those results particularly surprising. What I was more interested in is general consumer sentiment right now. Much to my pleasure, the Associated Press came out with a separate poll today speaking to exactly that point. The news isn't pretty.

Here are some key findings:


One year after Wall Street teetered on the brink of collapse, seven out of 10 Americans lack confidence the federal government has taken safeguards to prevent another financial industry meltdown, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Even more -- 80 percent -- rate the condition of the economy as poor and a majority worry about their own ability to make ends meet. The pessimistic outlook sets the stage for President Barack Obama as he attempts to portray the financial sector as increasingly confident and stable and presses Congress to act on new banking regulations.

These are some staggering numbers. They actually instill in me some hope that Americans really do get it. Since we've had no financial regulation passed that speaks to the causes of the financial crisis, I'm one of those seven in 10. This also shows that reforming the banking community must have pretty widespread support among Americans.

I wonder if Congress is listening. Compare that 70 percent of people who believe the government hasn't regulated to prevent another crisis with the mere 46 percent who support Democrats' health care reform push. Perhaps Washington would be wise to give financial regulation a higher priority within its queue?

As for that 80 percent, that's a telling statistic too. But on some level, this might be an obvious point. I'm not sure who that 20 percent of people are that think 9.7 percent unemployment signifies anything other than a poor economy. They must see the world a lot differently than I do.

These AP poll findings paint a much different picture than the rosy economic outlook the Gallup poll appeared to create.

Financial Regulation

Speaking of financial regulation, the poll also digs in to some specifics regarding banks:

Financial institutions, however, bore the brunt of the criticism -- 79 percent of those surveyed said banks and lenders that made risky loans deserve quite a bit of the blame. Sixty-eight percent held the federal government responsible for not adequately regulating banks and 65 percent blamed borrowers who could not afford to repay loans.

Again, these are overwhelming numbers. The call for financial reform is a loud one. Given that the vast, vast majority of Americans did not need a housing bailout, that 65 percent who place some blame on borrowers is also not surprising.


Then there's some more sobering news for Democrats in Washington:

In a glimmer of good news for the administration, 17 percent of those surveyed said the government's massive economic stimulus has improved the economy, a 10 percentage point increase over July. Nearly six out of 10, however, said they are not confident that $787 billion that Congress approved to lower taxes and inject spending into the economy will do any good.

The AP is being extremely generous calling that even a glimmer. A 17 percent approval rating for the stimulus' effect isn't something any Democrat in his or her right mind should be happy about. That 60 percent might be even more alarming, since that's a large majority who believe that it will never help.


The public sentiment also poses a challenge to central elements of Obama's governing agenda. Half of those surveyed said deficit reduction should be a national priority over increased spending on health care, education or alternative energy.

I think all of these statistics have serious implications for 2010. If Democrats continue to try to spend, while Republicans scream about fiscal responsibility, those midterm elections might not go so well for the ruling party. And most of those Americans don't want spending in "health care, education or alterative energy." That pretty much kills most of their agenda.

I think the key to the Democrats' success seems pretty obvious from these numbers: shelve health care reform, prioritize financial regulation and spend sparingly. With such overwhelming statistics, if they stay the course many might have to look for a new job after next November.