Americans: Really Angry, But Could Technically Be Angrier

The Christian Science Monitor addressed why Americans are so angry in an article today. Perhaps I’m more aware of it now, or maybe it’s just the popularity of pundit-laden, agenda-driven cable news networks, but it certainly does seem like we Yankees are pretty fired up. At what? Well, take your pick: The government, other Americans who (gasp!) have opinions contrary to ours, or even our local nugget-less McDonald’s. Although, believe it or not, it does seem we were even angrier in the early 1990s, at least according to prior surveys:

So what does this all add up to? Are we "mad as hell," like TV anchor Howard Beale ranting to viewers in the 1976 Hollywood classic "Network"? Is today’s real-life incarnation, Glenn Beck of Fox News, whipping us into a frenzy of revolt against Washington?

Not necessarily. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that 75 percent of Americans are "angry," but his question is framed solely around anger: "How angry are you at the current policies of the federal government?" Forty-five percent replied "very angry" and 30 percent said "somewhat angry."

But when Americans are given a choice of "angry," "dissatisfied," "satisfied," or "enthusiastic" about the way the federal government works, "dissatisfied" is the most popular choice at 48 percent, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. An additional 19 percent chose "angry."

This net negative of 67 percent doesn’t come close to the same poll’s finding in October 1992, during the last time of political turmoil over fiscal policy. Then, 25 percent of Americans were angry, and 56 percent were dissatisfied, per ABC. A month later, third-party presidential candidate Ross Perot won 19 percent of the vote and cost President George H.W. Bush a second term.

In 1992, unemployment had peaked at 7.8 percent – well below today’s level – and yet voters then were angrier than they are today. So it’s not just about unemployment. "Consider also the duration of the downturn, the tenure of the administration, the level of effort, the sense of empathy, and other atmospherics," says Gary Langer, director of polling for ABC News.

Obama emerged from his post-inaugural honeymoon long ago, but he’s still only 13 months in office. If the public remains unhappy with the economy and with his administration’s recovery efforts, anger could rise. As things stand today, the Democrats already could lose well more than 24 House seats this November, the post-World War II average loss for the president’s party in midterm elections.

For now, the angriest bloc of voters is conservatives, at 32 percent, according to ABC. Ten percent of liberals and 12 percent of moderates are angry. Higher levels of anger and declines in job approval for Obama could point to greater-than-average losses in November, potentially even the loss of Democratic control on Capitol Hill. Nonpartisan political handicapper Charlie Cook already predicts the Democrats will lose the House.

I also thought this passage was quite noteworthy:

There’s also disaffection among moderates, frustrated by the high degree of political polarization that leaves little room for compromise on major policy matters. But efforts in the last decade to build a "radical middle" movement – a drive to marry the best ideas of the right and left – seem to have faded.

The stunning decision by Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, one of the Senate’s few moderates, not to run for reelection cast the hollowing-out of the middle in sharp relief.