Barack Obama on a classroom visit in Yeadon, Pa. (Photo: AP)
Three major polls this week will give a jittery White House cause for concern. The first, from ABC News/Washington Postshows a significant rise in public anger towards the federal government. The second,
fromThe Wall Street Journal/ NBC, shows overwhelming disillusionment with President Obama’s handling of the economy. The third, from Gallup, has conservatives in America now outnumbering liberals by a two-to-one margin.
Taken as a whole, this week’s polls paint a picture of a country that is emphatically rejecting the Big Government experiment of the past few years, and turning more and more towards conservatism. The surveys are representative of a sea of polls revealing a deep-seated and mounting opposition to the highly interventionist economic policies of the current US administration, with the latest RealClear Politics average of polls showing 73 per cent of Americans believing the country is moving down the “wrong track”.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll highlights “a fed-up public” which “is greeting election year 2012 with a razz for the government, a jeer for incumbents and a wearying sense of economic frustration”. According toThe Post/ABC, hostility among American voters towards the federal government is now at its highest level in nearly two decades, a state of affairs that may usher in a one-term presidency for Barack Obama:
Thirty-one percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll are downright angry at the way the federal government works, a record in polling back to 1992. Add in those who are merely dissatisfied and the total soars to 80 percent, one point from its high 19 years ago.
Nearly as many, 74 percent, say the country’s headed seriously off on the wrong track — not a number that bodes well for incumbent presidents. A year before the 1992 election, during the last downturn anywhere near this severe, 72 percent said the country was on the wrong track; a year before the 1980 election, 77 percent said so; a year before the 1976 vote, 71 percent. Those results presaged the one-term presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.
According to The Post/ABC survey, a staggering 89 per cent of Americans now say the economy is in “bad shape”, with nearly half calling it “poor”; 61 per cent of respondents disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, with 48 per cent strongly disapproving. And particularly worrying for the White House, the vast majority of Americans now believe their personal economic situation is getting worse:
A mere 13 percent say they’re better off now than before Barack Obama took office; nearly three times as many say they’re worse off. Two-thirds worry about being able to maintain their standard of living; 31 percent are “very” worried, a new high in the last four years. Fewer than half, 43 percent, are confident they’ll have adequate resources for retirement, the fewest in ABC/Post polls back to 1996 and down dramatically from 68 percent near the height of the boom, in July 2001.
The findings of The Wall Street Journal/ NBC survey are broadly similar to The Post/ABC’s on the economic front. When asked if the Obama administration has lived up to expectations on the economy, 74 per cent declared it had “fallen short”. 74 per cent said the same with regard to the Administration’s handling of the federal budget deficit, and 70 per cent agreed on the issue of reducing government spending. When asked if the Obama administration has fallen short in “changing business as usual in Washington”, 72 per cent answered affirmatively. Only 25 per cent of Americans surveyed by The WSJ/NBCagreed that the “economy will get better” in the next 12 months, with a mere 16 per cent agreeing that “things have got better” in the last 12 months.
Widespread unhappiness with the government’s economic policies throughout the course of 2011 is also reflected in a rise in the number of Americans identifying themselves as conservative. As Gallup’s polling shows, 42 per cent of Americans now call themselves conservative (based on June-August interviews), up from 40 per cent in January-March. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who adhere to a liberal ideology has fallen from 22 to 21 during the same time period. The percentage calling themselves moderate also fell, from 38 per cent to 37 per cent.
While liberalism is in retreat, the United States is becoming an increasingly conservative nation, rejecting interventionist solutions to economic problems, from endless bailouts to suffocating business regulations. As I noted in an earlier piece, Barack Obama could end up being America’s last Big Government president, with future leaders wary of going down the same path of heavy borrowing coupled with excessive spending, that has fuelled spiralling budget deficits.
It is little wonder that 57 per cent of Americans today “have little or no confidence in the federal government to solve domestic problems” in Gallup polling, with 27 per cent believing “the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens”. On both sides of the Atlantic, governments have tried and failed with top down policies that stifle economic freedom while reducing prosperity. It is a foolhardy approach that is both unsustainable and antithetical to the cause of liberty, and faces a growing conservative revolution in the United States.