Depressed and Worried, Americans Blame Obama and Congress
Policy + Politics

Depressed and Worried, Americans Blame Obama and Congress

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Americans are feeling extraordinarily bleak this summer about the economy and their families’ futures, according to a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll. Seventy-one percent believe the country is on the “wrong track,” while 7 in 10 blame the malaise on President Obama and Congress more than on any structural problems with the recovery. 

The new findings out Tuesday should be a jarring wakeup call for the Obama administration and members of Congress: Americans are losing patience over partisan gridlock in Washington and could hold incumbents responsible when they go to the polls in November. Just yesterday, a new Washington Post-ABC poll showed that “a record-high share of Americans” disapprove of their own members of Congress after giving them a free pass for years. 

Related: Why We’re Fed Up with Our Own Members of Congress 

In the new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, Obama’s approval rating for his overall job performance and handling of foreign crises dipped by a percentage point from the previous month to just 40 percent – his worst showing ever – while his new disapproval rating of 54 percent matches a previous high. The president’s message of hope for middle-class Americans, students and other disadvantaged people does not seem to be winning many converts.  

Things are a lot worse for members of the “do-nothing” 113th Congress, however: Only 19 percent of those interviewed say they approve of the performance of congressional Republicans, while 54 percent disapprove. Democrats, meanwhile, were viewed negatively by 46 percent of Americans and favorably by only 31 percent. 

The two parties are fighting for control of the House and Senate this fall, with Republicans currently holding the edge, according to pollsters and political analysts. 

“If there was ever a hold-our-nose election, this certainly would be it,” said Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who conducts the WSJ-NBC poll with GOP pollster Bill McInturff, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal

After numerous false starts, the economy appears to be picking up a little steam. Economic expansion has added more than 200,000 jobs in each of the past six months – the longest streak since the mid-1990s. Yet this and other improving economic indicators are not translating into renewed public confidence. 

Related: ‘Do-Nothing Congress’ Gets an Unearned 5-Week Vacation   

A troubling 76 percent of adults don’t think their children’s generation will enjoy better living conditions than they do, according to the new poll. Moreover, since June there has been an 8-percentage point leap to 71 percent in the number of adults who believe the country is on the “wrong track.” And 60 percent of the poll’s respondents believe the U.S. is “in a state of decline.” 

“The American public is telling its elected representatives the economic distress that a significant proportion of them are feeling is directly their fault,” Yang told The Wall Street Journal

The new poll of 1,000 adults was done between last Wednesday and Sunday night, as Congress was preparing to leave on a five-week vacation. Here are other highlights of this depressing poll: 

  • Forty-nine percent of adults think the country is still in a recession five years after experts officially declared it had ended, while only half think the economy is improving. Forty percent said that at least one household member had lost a job over the past five years, while one in three said a member of their household had to take a job with a significantly lower salary. 

Related: July Jobs Disappoint as Unemployment Ticks Up to 6.2 Percent 

  • Roughly a fourth of adults said they or their child were carrying  more than $5,000 in student loan debt, while 25 percent said a household member had to take a second job to pay bills. Americans feeling the greatest economic pressure include Hispanics; white women between the ages of 35 and 49; and white working-class Americans.
  • A plurality of those surveyed said they want their vote in this fall’s mid-term election to be seen as a “message” that there needs to be a shakeup in Congress. Respondents were split on whether or not they wanted their vote to be deemed a “referendum” or a check on Obama’s performance. 

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