As Obama takes the stage for tomorrow's State of the Union address, in which, among other things, he probably will not announce that the US debt limit is effectively $16.4 trillion, or 107% of GDP and rising, he faces a very unhappy audience: one which according to Gallup has seen its dissatisfaction with economic and political issues hit record levels. Among the Gallup observations: "As President Barack Obama prepares his annual address to Congress, Americans are broadly dissatisfied with the state of the nation in several specific issue areas, with satisfaction down sharply in some cases since January 2008. However, three issues -- the nation's economy, the size and power of the federal government, and the moral and ethical climate in the country -- fit both of these unwelcome criteria." And with the only response the administration has in the past three years consisting of either printing more money which sends all assets, especially energy, higher in price, or fiscal stimulus of which 90% and more is lost due to inefficiencies and corruption, we don't see satisfaction rising any time soon.
On how Americans see the state of the economy:
Americans' satisfaction with the state of the nation's economy has dropped by 23 percentage points since January 2008 to 13%, according to a Jan. 5-8 Gallup poll. These figures represent both the lowest rate of satisfaction and the biggest decline seen for any of 24 issues measured in the survey. Attitudes toward the moral and ethical climate and the size and power of the federal government are similar to each other. Slightly fewer than 3 in 10 Americans are satisfied with each, down from about 4 in 10 in 2008, the last presidential election year and the last time Gallup measured satisfaction on all 24 items.
Hardly needing a mention, another major source of discontent is America's perception of its glaringly incompetent governance system.
Americans' satisfaction with the size and power of government has declined fairly steadily since January 2002, just months after 9/11 and at a time when Americans were positive about most things relating to the government. Confidence in the economy has dropped sharply since 2008 after fluctuating between 2002 and 2007. Confidence in the moral and ethical climate was flat through January 2008, before falling to the new low.
There are some aspects which Americans are happy with, acceptance of homosexuality being one of them. Also affordability of healthcare - presumably this focuses only on those who are benefiting from Obamacare, as opposed to the remainder who are funding it.
That leaves 10 issues in the poll about which Americans show tepid satisfaction, varying from 30% to 42%. Net dissatisfaction (the percentage satisfied minus the percentage dissatisfied) is particularly high for the size and influence of major corporations, the availability of affordable healthcare, the amount Americans pay in taxes, and "our system of government and how it works."
Recent Gallup polling has documented Americans' discontent on a number of fronts, including with the economy, the overall direction of the country, the federal government, both political parties, the media, big business, education, U.S. healthcare coverage, and gas prices. Of the 24 issues Gallup polled on in the recent survey, 13 have satisfaction scores below 40%. Public satisfaction has declined by a significant margin on 9 since January 2008, including to worrisome lows on the economy and system of government. Despite recent gains in the Gallup Economic Confidence Index, the large majority of Americans in early January say they are dissatisfied with the nation's economy.
State of the Union speeches typically provide sitting presidents with a valuable opportunity to highlight their successes, redefine their failures, and reset the nation's political priorities. Obama will undoubtedly try to do this on his own terms, perhaps highlighting some of the issues Americans rate highly in this survey. However, he faces the daunting task of making his message credible and relevant against the backdrop of political and economic turmoil that has characterized much of the past few years.