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Public Satisfaction with How Things Are Going Continues to Drop

As we get closer to the November election, Americans’ satisfaction with how things are going in the country has fallen in recent months from already low levels, according to Gallup:

In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time? 2009-2012 trend

Compared with May, satisfaction ratings are down nine percentage points among Democrats (from 43% to 34%) and three points among independents (20% to 17%), while they are up three points among Republicans (9% to 12%). Democrats remain much more satisfied than either independents or Republicans.

Low satisfaction ratings are an ominous sign for a president seeking re-election. Today’s 20% satisfaction among all Americans is similar to the final ratings prior to the 1980 and 1992 elections, when Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were defeated for re-election. In November 1979 (Gallup did not ask about satisfaction in 1980), 19% of Americans were satisfied with the direction of the country, and in August-September 1992, 22% were.

In contrast, Ronald Reagan (48% in 1984), Bill Clinton (39% in 1996), and George W. Bush (44% in 2004) were re-elected at times when Americans were much more satisfied with national conditions.

Rightly or wrongly, when Americans think things are going badly in the country, they tend to blame the person they see as being in control of the country, the President.

President Obama is going to have a very hard time crafting a campaign message that acknowledges the fact that people are becoming less satisfied with the state of the country while still somehow convincing them that it isn’t his fault. With trouble in Europe getting worse and little sign the American economy will soon start seriously growing, the Obama team is facing some seriously headwinds.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at