02.21.11

America's Unhappy Electorate

Obama hits 50 percent in the new Newsweek/Daily Beast poll, but Americans are largely dissatisfied with Congress, its leaders, and plans. (A bright spot: Trump for president!) Full results below.

President Obama hits 50 percent in the new Newsweek/Daily Beast poll, but Americans are largely dissatisfied with Congress, its leaders, and plans. (A bright spot: Trump for president!) Full results below.

A new Newsweek/Daily Beast poll shows that while the American people are gradually warming to President Obama's job performance—he's at 50 percent approval ratings, versus 44 percent who disapprove—the American electorate remains deeply skeptical toward the plans of both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and gives Congress itself a distinctly negative rating.

Gallery: America’s Unhappy Electorate Poll Results

Some of the specific are as follows:

• Only 30 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, versus 58 percent who disapprove.
• Only 37 percent support the health-care reform law, versus 56 percent who oppose. But in terms of repealing it, the verdict is split: 41 percent want to repeal, 44 percent oppose such a move.
• Only 37 percent believe the GOP puts forward positive proposals, versus 49 percent who believe the party is primarily interested in criticizing Obama. The president scores far better in this regard—58 percent believe he puts forward positive proposals—but pluralities still doubt he has solutions to key issues facing the country.
• A full 66 percent of respondents are satisfied with how Obama has handled the Egypt crisis.

Given the dissatisfaction that exists and the hyper-partisanship evident in Washington, it is not surprising that a strong majority of voters favor the establishment of a bipartisan process to balance the budget, reform health care, and overhaul the tax system.

Voters express dissatisfaction with both the Democratic leadership in the Senate and Republican leadership in the House, and indeed hold unfavorable views toward both major parties.

The only congressional leader with a positive approval rating is newly elected Speaker John Boehner—40 percent positive to 23 percent negative. Each of the other three leaders has a net negative rating, with Harry Reid (27-44) Nancy Pelosi (33-53) both perceived especially poorly.

Given the level of dissatisfaction that exists, it is not surprising that a clear majority of the American people prefer the divided government we now have to the Democratic rule we had previously. In addition, there is a preference for the Republicans, rather than the Democrats to run Congress after the next election.

The Newsweek/Daily Beast poll also surveyed the 2012 race. The Republican presidential primary is effectively tied between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee—with Sarah Palin trailing them both by substantial margins in the Republican presidential trial heat.

The prospective addition of Donald Trump to the race did produce some impact, and his support was in the high single digits.

Individual head-to-head ballot tests for president show President Obama with a double-digit lead over Sarah Palin (51-40), a narrow lead over Mitt Romney (49-47) and Donald Trump (43-41), and a tie with Mike Huckabee (46-46).

Moreover, the particularly high percentage of undecided voters in the race with Trump underscores the substantial degree of uncertainty his prospective candidacy provokes.

While the president did draw positive ratings for his handling of the crisis in Egypt, there remains greater skepticism about Egypt and indeed, the Middle East. A solid majority believes that a stable democracy is unlikely to emerge in Egypt, and there is real fear that fundamentalism and conflict will result from the crisis—even under circumstances where the American people say they are largely uncertain about what type of government will emerge. Full poll results can be viewed here.

The Newsweek/Daily Beast Poll was conducted with a representative sample of the national population with 918 likely voters. The fieldwork took place between Saturday, February 12 and Tuesday, February 15, 2011. The margin of sampling error for this poll is +/-3.5 percent.

Douglas Schoen is a political strategist and author of Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins. Schoen has worked on numerous campaigns, including those of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Evan Bayh, Tony Blair, and Ed Koch.