The Economic Crisis and Populist Revolt at a Boiling Point

With President Obama set to deliver his State of the Union address tonight, new surveys conducted for Democracy Corps and the Center for American Progress and National Public Radio as well as Democracy Corps focus group reveal a political mood that very well may be the low-point for Democrats this cycle. With more than six-in-ten voters saying that things in this country are off on the wrong track the anti-Washington sentiment is swiftly turning anti-Democratic. Though a difficult time this research does point to several key actions Democrats can take to ensure that the midterm elections occur in an environment more favorable to Democrats.

With President Obama delivering his State of the Union Address tonight, we wanted to make sure you had our interpretation of this key moment based on a Democracy Corps and Center for American Progress national survey conducted right before the Massachusetts Senate election and a National Public Radio bipartisan poll conducted with Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies right afterwards. We take these developments very seriously, but we also want to offer perspective and set out major steps that can produce a very different future. The upset in Massachusetts was the culmination of yearlong trends that reached their boiling point even before these voters gave Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat to a Republican.  Voters are increasingly consumed by unemployment and want their leaders to address that priority, yet leaders in Washington seem polarized and gridlocked, pushing a health care bill now defined by special deals rather than its benefits and the reforms that voters want.  They are worried about spending and angry about the bailout of Wall Street that has no shame.  Both the Democracy Corps and NPR polls show near 60 percent of voters believing the country is off on the wrong track. That is normally a measure of the lack of confidence in the economy, congressional progress and national leadership. As you will see, this is reflected in disillusionment with incumbents, Democrats, and the Democratic Congress, even as Republicans remain unreconstructed.  There is a populist and conservative revolt against Wall Street and financial elites, Congress and government, and it is centered among independents.  Democrats and President Obama are seen as more interested in bailing out Wall Street than helping Main Street.  Stir in demoralized Democrats and energized Republicans and you reach a boiling point.  Democracy Corps showed the named-congressional ballot slipping to minus one point (45 to 46 percent), half way between the average of the public polls, which have the Democrats ahead by 2, and the NPR poll showing Republicans moving ahead by 5 points.

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