The lead NY Times story yesterday is headlined: "81 Percent in Poll Say Nation Is Headed on Wrong Track" and the first paragraph tells us this is the highest number since 1992 poll (this Times/CBS News poll was first conducted in 1991) and way up from the 35 percent figure in 2002.
1. The last time four-fifths of the nation was so negative about the future of the United States was in the last year of the presidency of Bush 41.
2. The percentage of people generally happy with the direction of the country has been steadily declining during the presidency of Bush 43.
The surprising thing to me is not that 81 percent are depressed and say that "things in the country have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track" but that 19 percent are not. It means that out of 233 million noninstitutionalized American adults, 44 million believe the country is "generally going in the right direction."
Think about it - 44 million noninstitutionalized adult Americans with continuing faith that our ship of state is sailing on the right course.
A puzzler is that 28 percent of those surveyed think Dubya is doing a great job, i.e., 65 million Americans. So 21 million Americans (65 million minus 44 million) think the United States is on the wrong track but Dubya does a great job. The ship is heading in the wrong direction, but the captain is a heckuva helmsman.
In fairness, the poll was taken before the BLS released the news that in the first three months of 2008 the U.S. economy had shed 232,000 jobs, which includes not only a job loss of 80,000 in March - the largest monthly decline in five years - but also major upward revisions of job losses in the previous two months. The last time we had three consecutive months of job loss was in the second quarter of 2003. If we need 100,000 new jobs a month to keep pace with population growth, the economy has a cumulative shortfall of more than half a million jobs so far this year. The unemployment data were also ominous, with the unemployment rate resuming its upward climb, rising to 5.1 percent from 4.8 percent in February.