Gallup: Most Americans unsatisfied with country's direction, think best days are behind us

Happy New Year!

A USA Today/Gallup poll takes the temperature of the American people and finds it, to put it generously, tepid:

Now, 23% express satisfaction with the country’s course — still significantly lower than when previous recent presidents took office for their second terms. For Bush in 2005, 45% were satisfied; for Bill Clinton in 1997, 43%; for Ronald Reagan in 1985, 52%…

In the poll, more than a third say either they or one of their closest family members have suffered a “major financial setback” in the past year; just one in five report a major financial gain in their family. While the economy, in fact, is growing again — the recession officially ended in June 2009 — just a third of Americans see it that way. They’re outnumbered by the 44% who say it’s in a recession or a depression.

Four years ago, that 23 percent number was 13, with the U.S. reeling in the immediate aftermath of the financial meltdown. The unemployment rate in January 2009? 7.8 percent with 65.7 percent labor force participation, and a U-6 of about 12 percent. November of 2012? 7.7 with 63.6 percent participation, and a U-6 of 14.1. Behold, the new normal and our lowered expectations. Predictions for 2013, when The Healer is to begin his next four years of triumph?

Still, predictions for the nation in 2013 are almost all downbeat.

By 2-1, those surveyed expect this year to be one of economic difficulty, not one of prosperity. A majority say employment will improve and inflation will be under control. But more than eight in 10 also say taxes and the crime rate will rise. Three of four predict a “troubled year” of international discord, not a peaceful one. Most believe American power around the globe will decline.

The Gallup write-up adds: “The 65% of Americans who predict 2013 will be a year of economic difficulty is one of the more negative responses to this question since Gallup first asked it in 1965.”

And, what about beyond 2013, and our hopes for our children?

Behind us

As you might imagine, Democrats are more optimistic, but the numbers for Republicans and Independents are dismal. As usual, the American people think everything’s bad, but none of that really matters for Obama. He’s still floating a bit over 50 percent approval after his decisive call to action, which saved us from the fiscal cliff and responsibly dealt with our long-term debt expensive flight from Hawaii to D.C. to do nothing but give an antagonistic speech while others brokered a deal that doesn’t deal with any of our long-term problems.

With the federal government approaching the so-called “fiscal cliff,” when federal income tax rates will increase across-the-board back to the level they were under President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama’s disapproval has climbed 5 points in the Gallup poll since Christmas.

In Gallup’s three-day tracking period that ended on Dec. 23, the poll’s last day before Christmas, 37 percent said they disapproved of the job Obama was doing as president and 57 percent said they approved. That was the lowest disapproval Obama had enjoyed since Gallup’s three-day tracking period that ended on Aug. 1, 2009.

Over the four days that Gallup polled after Christmas, however, Obama’s approval dropped 4 points to 53 percent and his disapproval climbed five points to 42 percent. That is where it stood on Dec. 29, the most recent day of polling Gallup has reported in its presidential approval survey.