October 30, 2014

Heading into midterms, Americans still as bummed out as they were in 2012, 2010

unemployment, housing, national mood today compared with 2012, 2010

With Election Day fast approaching, Americans are feeling somewhat better this year about the national economy than they were the past two election cycles — a sentiment borne out by improvements in several key indicators. But by many other measures, their collective mood hasn’t really improved.

Fact Tank dug through the Pew Research Center survey archives to compare public sentiment about the economy and elected leaders today with the same metrics at comparable periods before the federal elections of 2012 and 2010. Here’s a rundown of what we learned:

  • More people are feeling positively about the U.S. economy, though that isn’t saying much. In the most recent Pew Research Center poll from earlier this month, 21% described the economy as “excellent” or “good,” well ahead of sentiment in October 2010 (8%) and September 2012 (13%). Not only has unemployment fallen from 9.5% in September 2010 (the last reading before Election Day) to 5.9% last month, but the “underemployment rate” — an alternate measure that includes involuntary part-timers and people who’d like a job but aren’t actively looking for one — was down to 11.8%, versus 16.8% four years ago. Stocks are near record highs, and housing prices nationally are back to their 2008 levels. All that is significant, given that — as in 2010 and 2012 — the economy was the most important voting issue identified by Americans.
  • But even as the economy has improved, people doubt that it will continue doing so. Only 27% of people in the most recent Pew Research poll said they expect economic conditions to be better a year from now, down from 43% in 2012 and 35% in 2010.
  • Overall, Americans are just about as dissatisfied with the direction of the country as they have been the past two elections. Nearly two-thirds of adults (65%) say they’re dissatisfied, close to the levels in 2010 and 2012.
  • Congress is even less popular this year than before. In July, when we asked the question, 69% of Americans said they had an unfavorable opinion of Congress, compared with 65% in 2012 and 56% in 2010. Nonetheless, close to half of registered voters (48%) said this month that they’d like to see their own representative win a new term — nearly unchanged from the last two election periods. However, the share saying their representative shouldn’t be re-elected has steadily risen.
  • After sitting at 50% during summer 2012 and rising to 55% after his re-election, President Obama’s job-approval rating has fallen back. 43% of people in the most recent Pew Research poll approved of Obama’s job performance, while 51% disapproved; four years earlier, the split was about even (46%-45%).
  • Americans’ views of both major parties have dropped slightly since 2010. But while views on the Democrats now are split pretty evenly (47% favorable, 46% unfavorable), more than half of Americans (54%) view the Republicans unfavorably, versus only 38% with a favorable view. Not that general sentiment predicts how people will actually vote: A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that even people who don’t trust either party plan to vote Republican next week. And as Gerald Seib noted in The Wall Street Journal, “the slice of the country that now trends most Republican … coincides nicely with the slice of America that traditionally is more likely to vote in any midterm.”

Topics: National Economy, 2014 Election

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anderson3 years ago

    When I became voting age in the 60’s I remember it seemed that the slogan of the day was “Vote for the person, not the Party”. I don’t know if it worked back then or ever, but today we it would be almost unthinkable to do so. We almost don’t even have to think about it any more because extremism and buffoonery on one side begets extremism and slander on the other. As evidenced by the records of congress, if you don’t vote with the majority of your party, you are causing defeat of the party’s ideal or at least it’s moneyed backers. This situation at times seems to leave about 2% of the voters, who don’t pay attention, make up there mind at the last minute, and control the election results. Is it any wonder that the media adds get most furious near election day.

  2. Packard Day3 years ago

    “Bummed out” you say?…

    It would be more accurate to call it; simply tired of all the low comedy and buffoonery perpetrated by this amateur Administration. President Obama and his closest advisers (i.e. Valarie Jarrett, Susan Rice, Eric Holder, Jeh Johnson, Joe Biden, John Kerry, et al.) these past six years have been models for both historic incompetence and systemic corruption (e.g. IRS, NSA, Benghazi [before, during, and after the attack), Secret Service, CDC, HHS, Obamacare, VA, childish Israeli name calling, willful blindness to domestic Islamic terrorism, CIA, perjury before congress by Eric Holder and James Clapper, unauthorized wars with Libya and now Syria, Fast&Furious, New Black Panther Party voter intimidation, illegal wiretapping of AP and Fox news reporters, the rotten economy, shameless race baiting by DOJ in Ferguson, MO, jobs, etc. etc.). Bummed out indeed.

  3. ruth ferguson3 years ago

    American’s are 70% spoiled brats. I lived in near poverty during the second World War. Look around you, all you 70% spoiled brats — you are living a gravy life!

    1. Anderson3 years ago

      I agree. Youth has no past to allow appreciation of the present, an that may never change.