A Not-So-Hidden Malaise


Mother Jones has released the results of its latest poll, a poll intended, they say, to ‘to delve beyond the normal tracking questions found in most national polls.’ In other words, a poll that had less to do with the horse-race and more to do with what people feel, think, and believe. You may find the results surprising, at least you will if you’re as pessimistic as I generally am, because what the poll seems to show is that Bush isn’t fooling very many people.

For instance, after noting that conventional polls have the candidates more or less running close together with Kerry ahead in this area and Bush ahead in that, Stanley Greenberg discloses the gulf that actually exists between what people want for America and where it seems to be going.

The problem is captured in a simple question we asked 500 survey participants: “Tell me whether you think our country is better off or worse off today than it was three years ago when it comes” to a list of “issues facing the country.” We asked another 500 participants about “issues facing people today” and “whether you are better off or worse off than you were three years ago.” They were asked about the country and themselves, respectively, with no mention of George Bush or politics.For a start, one searches for an area where people think things have improved. There is one: people believe their local communities and communities across the nation have been strengthened. But in areas related to George Bush’s stewardship and the state of the union, voters believe a wide range of things are getting worse. Nothing rivals the federal deficit as an area of concern: it is a symbol of bad governance as well as a signal that government lacks the capacity to finance things important to the country. In a near unanimous vote, 80 percent say the deficits have worsened under Bush, with only 8 percent seeing improvement. And on nearly all indicators of material wellbeing, both for the country and for themselves, the overwhelming majority of Americans think things have worsened during Bush’s tenure. This is true for job security, the ability of personal incomes to keep up with the cost of living, access to affordable health care, the economy, and the creation of new good paying jobs.

Michael Scherer sees startling evidence for an ‘Unhappy Majority’.

The results indicate a startling consensus on the need for change. Asked if the country should “continue in the same direction as the one Bush is headed or a significantly different one,” 57 percent of Americans at large, 57 percent of swing state voters, and 67 percent of independents said they want a different course. Although the vast majority of Republicans remain loyal to Bush — nearly 90 percent say they would support the president over Kerry — the poll found that 34 percent of moderate Republicans, as well as 24 percent of those who voted for Bush in 2000, now want a change of direction for the country.A majority of registered voters from across the political spectrum, including many of the President’s core voters, said they believe the poor, the middle class, and American workers have lost ground over the past three years, while the wealthy, big corporations, and CEO’s have gained.

Perhaps most importantly, independent voters — a group that regularly affects the outcome of presidential elections — appear to be distancing themselves from President Bush’s conservative Republican base on a wide range of issues. “Their underlying dispositions right now look like they seem to favor Kerry,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Mind you, this is after candidate Bush (who, according to some inside reports, is basically running his own campaign this time around) has spent almost half his $200MIL war chest on advertising in key states and before Kerry has spent hardly any.

The Republican faithful may be living up to their name but everybody else is slowly backing away. The more Bush campaigns, the more he seems to alienate all but his core radcon constituency. With almost 1/2 to 2/3 of the electorate convinced we’re ‘going in the wrong direction’, even his supporters, Junior is running furiously just to stay in place–and that’s all he’s accomplishing so far.

I–one of the most cynical and pessimistic curmudgeons on the face of the planet when it comes to assuming, after watching Nixon and Reagan (two of the meanest and most incompetent presidents of the 20th century) get re-lected by overwhelming majorities despite horrendous policies and overtly criminal behaviour, that the American people are only interested in superficial happy-talk optimism and will vote for whoever tells them the greatest amount of what they want to hear while ignoring the greatest amount of what they’d rather not know–even I am slowly giving in to the hope that this appalling crew of crooks and shysters has finally overplayed their hand.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not still keeping my fingers crossed….

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