Commentary Magazine


Dissatisfaction in U.S. Near Record Levels

A new Gallup poll shows that throughout 2011, an average of 17 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. That is the second-lowest annual average in the more than 30-year history of the question (after the 15 percent from 2008). During the year, satisfaction ranged from lows of 11 percent in August and September to a high of 26 percent in May. And nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) currently mention some economic issue as the most important problem facing the country.

As a point of comparison, satisfaction has averaged as high as 60 percent in 1986, 1998, and 2000.

One other noteworthy finding is that 16 percent of Americans say “the government” or “politicians” is the most important problem — the highest Gallup has measured since  January 1996. That’s not terribly surprising, since Gallup has found Americans’ level of trust in government at historic lows in  2011.

The conclusions one can draw from these polls are obvious enough: the public is very unsatisfied with the way things are going in America and they’re deeply unhappy with the political class, whom they hold largely responsible for the state of things. This poses a threat to lawmakers at every level, starting with the president. Rightly or wrongly, if things aren’t going well, the chief executive is held largely responsible. So it has always been, and so it shall be.