Angry Americans

Chris Cillizza of The Fix offers a post on recent findings that Americans are — get this — not happy with their government and the future of the country. Not too suprising, I suppose, as our past two presidential administrations haven’t exactly topped the approval charts. Not to bum you out over the holidays or anything, but there are some interesting thoughts and numbers here:

Americans are deeply pessimistic about the state of the country and its future, according to a series of new national polls, a negativity that puts politicians in a difficult place as they try to woo voters and keep hold on office.

In the  new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction, the highest number in President Obama’s term to date. A similar 67 percent said the country was headed off on the wrong track in a Washington Post/ABC News survey released earlier this week.

New Pew data paints an even darker picture of Americans’ views about our current standing — particularly in regards the economy. Nearly nine in ten Americans say the current economic conditions are either "fair" or "poor" and there is an overwhelming sense that we as a country are losing ground.

Fully 67 percent of the sample said the country was "losing ground" on the budget deficit — today’s expected House vote on the tax cut compromise won’t help there — while 64 percent say ground is being lost on "cost of living". Two thirds (63 percent) said the country is losing ground on the "availability of good-paying jobs" and 58 percent said the same about the "rich-poor gap".

The numbers are startling and make clear the challenge before President Obama — or any politician — hoping to convince people that better days are indeed ahead.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff said that the overall pessimism is intertwined with the state of the economy, noting that more people in the NBC/WSJ poll said that the economic recession was the issue that has impacted them most this decade — more so than even the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "The only things that would significantly change the right direction number is a substantially better economy or an event like 9/11 that rallied the country," added McInturff.

Barring that, what’s a politician to do?

Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster, said consistency is the key to surviving the country’s bout with pessimism. "Once [politicians] decide upon the best policy/solutions, they need to spend more time than ever before in making sure the public is invested and are continually kept informed," said Yang. "Leadership is about good government, but it is also about communicating good government effectively."

That sort of constant education effort takes time — and money out of campaign coffers. But, with Americans seemingly ready to believe the worst about just about everything, it may be an elected official’s only path back to office in the coming months and years.