Two recent polls have come out measuring the mood of the nation, and the results should give David Axelrod nightmares.
One poll, sponsored by The Hill newspaper, found that almost half of American voters (46 percent) say they feel worse off than they did a year ago. That’s almost three times as many as the 16 percent who feel more affluent today than a year ago. (Around one-third of voters—36 percent—say their economic situation has remained essentially unchanged from 12 months ago.) “Almost two years after the recession officially ended, pronounced pessimism about the economy lingers,” according to the accompanying Hill story: “It’s worrying for President Obama that voters are especially bleak when asked about their personal circumstances.”
Then there’s a new Fox News poll, which found that by wide margins Republicans (82 percent) and independents (71 percent) think the country is weaker now than it was five years ago. Only 4 percent of Republicans and 9 percent of Democrats say America is stronger today than it was five years ago. Among Democrats, 47 percent say weaker, only 27 percent say stronger, and 25 percent say the same as before. Now to be fair, five years ago was 2006, before the Great Recession hit. (It was also before the Obama presidency hit.)
Taken together, the two polls reinforce what others have said: the American people, by large numbers, are pessimistic, anxious, and believe the trajectory of the nation is downward rather than upward. We are in the midst of what they perceive to be an American decline. And that is the kind of thing that can be politically lethal for an incumbent president.