As State of the Union Approaches, Americans Are Deeply Pessimistic About the State of the Union

Harris surveyed 2,047 adults between January 17 and 21, 2014, on the current state of the American union. The results, I think, are stunning. It would be interesting to compare the numbers to prior, similar surveys; I can’t imagine that there have been many times in our history when Americans have been so glum. Here are the key results.

Before you talk about poll responses, you have to be sure you know what the question was. Harris’s first question was: “At the end of the month, President Barack Obama will give his State of the Union to the American people. How would you rate the current state of the country?” The results:

Excellent: 3%
Good: 17%
Fair: 44%
Poor: 36%

These results are dismal: 20% positive, and 80% negative. That is grim; Americans think the country in terrible shape. So, does that mean that people will be tuning in to Obama’s State of the Union speech in search of hope and guidance? No. Harris finds that only 28% of respondents intend to watch the broadcast. 32% won’t touch it with a stick, and the remaining 40% are “maybes,” but I’m pretty sure nearly all of them will decide to tune out. Hardly anyone believes that after five years of failure, Barack Obama still has something important to offer.

Americans’ pessimism about their country stretches across the board. Harris asked, “How would you rate how well the following issues are going in the country?” Again, here are the results. “Positive” means either excellent or “pretty good,” “Negative” means either “only fair” or poor:

Environment: 34% positive, 61% negative.
Education: 29% positive, 67% negative.
Health Care: 25% positive, 71% negative.
The Economy: 23% positive, 74% negative.
Jobs: 20% positive, 78% negative.

Immigration: 16% positive, 75% negative.

These data show that Americans are profoundly unhappy with the state of their country. Pessimism is not the natural state of most Americans, but today, pessimism plainly reigns, especially with regard to the economy and jobs, always the Obama administration’s Achilles heels. And note that immigration won’t save the day: more unpopular than anything else with Americans is the status quo, where immigration laws are not enforced, millions of illegals live openly in the U.S. without any threat of deportation, and the country’s establishment has nothing to suggest other than importing tens of millions more unskilled workers to drive down the wages of America’s reeling working class.

This is Barack Obama’s legacy: a black hopelessness, accompanied by the conviction that nothing will change for the better. No hope, no change. Just depression.

Normally, one would say that these numbers doom the party in power, the Democrats, to a disastrous defeat at the next election. That is, actually, what I think will happen. But I think it is also evident that Republicans need to sharpen their appeals to voters to convince them that they have better answers than the ones that have so obviously failed over the past five years. That is a big job; but, if history is any guide, a massively dissatisfied electorate will listen with open ears to what the Republicans have to say.