Trump Is Up in the Polls Because Americans Are Down in the Dumps
Policy + Politics

Trump Is Up in the Polls Because Americans Are Down in the Dumps

Jonathan Ernst

By now you probably know that Americans — especially Republicans — are in a lousy mood and ready to take out their hostility in the voting booths and at party caucuses beginning next week.

There’s a whole body of research documenting that the majority of Americans are either depressed, angry or fed up and they are convinced that the country is moving in the wrong direction.

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Indeed, a New York Times/CBS News poll earlier this month found that 65 percent of all Americans are convinced the country is on the “wrong track” and headed for big trouble.

Late last year, the Pew Research Center concluded that the American public is “deeply cynical” about government, politics and the nation’s elected leaders. In Pew’s survey, just 19 percent said they can trust the government “always or most of the time.” And 55 percent said that “ordinary Americans” would do a better job of solving national problems than elected officials.

A new Gallup survey out this week found that just four in 10 Americans rate the “current situation” in the U.S. as positive, which is well below historical averages.

Gallup for decades has been asking Americans to assess how things were going in general, on a scale from one to 10. What they found this time is that Americans are feeling just a tad better than they did just before President Richard M. Nixon resigned in the Watergate scandal in 1974.

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Gallup speculates that this has to do with Americans’ rampant dissatisfaction with their government and continued concerns about the uneven economic recovery and the threat of terrorism.

Slightly over half of Americans disapprove of President Obama’s job performance, but approval for Congress is just 11 percent. And as Gallup noted, Democrats are “sharply more positive” than Republicans and independents in assessing the current state of things.

It has become a cliché of the 2016 presidential campaign that billionaire Donald Trump has tapped into voter discontent and revulsion with the political status quo — and into some voters’ hatred of immigrants and others they view as a threat to their economic well being — and that Trump may ride that wave all the way to the Republican National Convention this summer.

There is plenty of polling data to back up that scenario.

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A Washington Post/ABC News poll out this week found Republicans in a substantially sour mood and predisposed to vote for Trump beginning with next Monday’s Iowa caucuses.

Nearly 90 percent of the Republicans surveyed nationwide said the country is “pretty seriously off on the wrong track” and are dissatisfied with the way the government works. They believe Trump when he castigates government officials as “stupid” — and that includes the president and congressional leaders.

More importantly, two-thirds of the Republicans surveyed fret about maintaining their current standard of living, and a majority said that people with similar values to their own are losing influence. About half say the country’s best days are behind it.

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Trump now receives the support of 37 percent of registered Republicans, putting him far ahead of his nearest rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has just 21 percent, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who garnered 11 percent of the vote.

Trump also is ahead with practically all demographic groups, including white evangelical Christians, those with incomes below $50,000 a year and those lacking a college degree.

But notably, the bombastic former reality TV host scores best among those voters “dissatisfied with government and the country’s direction,” according to The Post.

In short, these are the best of times for Trump.