Why Are Voters So Fed Up?

Behind the across-the-board anger displayed in a new poll

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A new poll on voter sentiment from NBC and the Wall Street Journal describes an angry, disillusioned electorate. Favorability ratings are low for both parties and even for President Obama, who polls 47 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval. Here's what the poll reports and what it means.

  • What Poll Reports  NBC's Mark Murray finds "that less than half the country approves of President Obama's job; that the percentage believing the current Congress is either below average or among the worst is at an all-time high; that the number viewing the Republican Party favorably is at an all-time low; and that the Democratic Party doesn’t fare much better. What's more, nearly six in 10 respondents still say the country is headed in the wrong direction, and almost two-thirds think that the U.S. economy has yet to hit rock-bottom."
  • What's Driving This  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein analyzes, "In other words, voters don't like Obama, but 70 percent think he's doing as well or better than could be expected. Democrats are substantially more popular than Republicans -- and Obama, who is a Democrat, is more popular than both -- but they're tied in the congressional ballot. This isn't a very sure-footed electorate with strong opinions about who should be running the country and how. This is a frustrated electorate with strong opinions that everyone involved in running the country right now is doing a poor job of it."
  • What It Means Politically  The Wall Street Journal's Peter Wallstein and Eliza Gray write, "The sour national mood appears all-encompassing and is dragging down ratings for the GOP too, suggesting voters above all are disenchanted with the political establishment in Washington. Just 24% express positive feelings about the Republican Party, a new low in the 21-year history of the Journal's survey. Democrats are only slightly more popular, but also near an all-time low. The results likely foreshadow a poor showing in November's mid-term for Democrats, whose leaders had hoped the public would grow more optimistic about the economy and, as a result, more supportive of the party agenda. Now, despite the weak Republican numbers, the survey shows frustrated voters on the left are less interested than impassioned voters on the right to in the election."
  • Evidence Against GOP Takeover  The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen writes, "As deeply unhappy as Americans are with the status quo, Republicans have not yet improved their public reputation or standing. In 1994 and 2006 -- the last two cycles in which the majority party lost both the House and Senate in the same cycle -- the minority party gained favor. This year, just three months before Election Day, the Republican Party's favorable rating is still at an all-time low. In other words, the electorate would have to replace an unpopular party with an even more unpopular party. That's not to say it's impossible, but it's hardly a recipe for success, and it certainly doesn't constitute a popular mandate."
  • Economic Pessimism Is Self-Fulfilling  Libertarian blogger Doug Mataconis explains, "the fact that the public feels like things will get worse could turn into a self-fulling prophecy. People who think there’s going to be an economy downturn, or that their job or their house is in danger, are going to be less likely to engage in the kind of consumer spending that is needed to help turn the economy around, and small business owners who feel the same way are unlikely to engage in the investment and new hiring that we need to start turning the employment figures around. There are very few things in life where the phrase 'wishing makes it so' is at least partly true, but economics is one of them, and a public who thinks the bottom could fall out at any moment is not a good thing."
  • The Reagan Precedent?  Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias writes, "It’s true that Barack Obama’s downward-sliding approval rating thus far tracks extremely closely with what happened to Ronald Reagan during the severe early eighties recession." However he worries that some liberals "too much solace from this fact." He points out "how robustly the economy rebounded from that downturn" under Reagan and notes that no such rebound is projected under Obama. "The 'Morning in America' year of 1984 featuring a real growth rate of over seven percent. If that happens in 2012, Obama will indeed cruise to re-election, become incredibly popular, and make fools of his rivals. But the administration’s economic policymakers don’t believe that will happen and don’t have a strategy for attempting to make it happen."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.