A majority of Americans are angry and frustrated with elected officials, and more than four in 10 have given up hope in Washington’s ability to help them get through the economic slump.
“It’s the bickering that I can’t stand, and they’re constantly beating their chests and saying, ‘I’m not budging -- you better,’” said Rose Hutchinson, 40, a technical analyst from Antioch, Illinois. “They’ve lost sight of what’s really the issue. It’s not about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about Americans not having jobs.”
More than a third of Americans say they “wish” President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans would compromise, while 28 percent say they are frustrated by the political fighting, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 9-12. More than a quarter say they are “angry and want to throw them all out.”
The findings highlight the depths of public ire directed at Washington after months of gridlock and brinksmanship between Obama and House Republicans, a dynamic that could harm both sides in next year’s elections. Only 8 percent said they thought elected officials were doing the best they could.
Evidence that voters are angry enough to kick out their own party was apparent Tuesday night when Republican Bob Turner won a special election in a U.S. House district in New York City with voter registration weighted toward the Democrats. “We are unhappy. I’m telling you. I am the messenger. Heed us,” Turner said in a victory speech aimed at Washington.
Hutchinson, an independent who said she had never voted before she cast her 2008 ballot for Obama, now blames the president for Washington’s dysfunction. “He promised the world -- he hasn’t delivered a dang thing,” Hutchinson said. “Shame on me for being an idiot and believing it.”
Most unhappy Americans blame Republicans for the problems in Washington. The survey shows that 39 percent of poll respondents blame either Obama or congressional Democrats while 45 percent pinned responsibility on congressional Republicans.
“You can’t take any one poll in isolation,” U.S. Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, told Bloomberg Television today when asked about the numbers. The poll result “highlights a broad dissatisfaction among the American people with the way their government has been operating,” he said.
The poll shows anger and frustration highest among Republicans -- 62 percent of whom described themselves that way -- and independents, 58 percent of whom did. It’s also prevalent among Democrats, with 41 percent expressing those sentiments.
“I’ve been a registered Republican for 50 years or more, but I don’t like what they are doing,” said Ray DiPietro, 78, a retiree who lives in Minoa, New York. Republicans “are more concerned about getting Obama out of office than with making things right,” he said.
DiPietro said he gets several e-mails a day from Republican supporters who put Obama down and “tear him apart, and that’s no way for grownups to talk.” The retiree, who supported passage of Obama’s health-care law, said there’s “no way in hell” he will vote for a Republican in 2012.
Indianapolis Republican Nicole Olin shares his angst.
“They seem like they are unwilling to budge as far as tax increases,” said Olin, 31, a bank supervisor. “If this country is ever going to get out of trouble, they are going to have to compromise.”
Olin said families have to cut spending and bring in more income in tough times, and the government should do the same. She hasn’t decided how she will vote in next year’s presidential race.
“I do put the majority of the blame on the Republicans, because they seem to be the least willing to give up anything,” she said. “Just because a majority votes you in doesn’t mean you don’t have to compromise in one way, shape or form to make sure you do what’s good for everyone.”
A driver of the public’s disillusionment with Washington was the debt-ceiling battle earlier this year that took the nation to the brink of default before a compromise was reached in early August.
Of those who described themselves as angry, frustrated or yearning for compromise, 71 percent said the debt-limit debate intensified those feelings.
“There’s nobody, it appears to me, that’s interested in the benefit of the country or of the people,” said Don Himmelright, 70, a retired government worker from Las Vegas. “They’re all interested in themselves and their jobs.”
Himmelright said he had been a registered Democrat for 49 years before switching his affiliation to independent last year out of disgust with Obama, whom he supported in 2008.
While he blames Republicans most for the problems he sees in Washington, he says he’s “fed up” with Obama and the two top congressional Democrats: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Himmelright called the battle over borrowing authority -- during which Republicans refused to consider tax increases to contribute to debt reduction -- “a joke.”
Obama and lawmakers “had the opportunity to do great things, but because of this grandstanding and refusing to entertain any kind of a tax increase, they just missed their chance.”
The poll of 997 adults was conducted by Selzer & Co., based in Des Moines, Iowa, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Majority Are ‘Hopeful’
Even with the anger and frustration expressed by the majority of respondents, 54 percent described themselves as “hopeful” that Washington would get something done in the next year that would help them or their family economically. Forty-three percent said they “have given up hope” that Washington could positively impact them.
Karen Blixt, 58, a musician from Albany, California, said she is among those optimists. A Democrat, she blamed Republicans for obstructing Obama’s agenda and was equally scathing of the president, who she said had abandoned his principles in search of a compromise with unreasonable opponents.
“What I really wish is that Obama would put his foot down,” Blixt said.
Republicans were most likely to have given up hope -- with 56 percent saying they had, compared with 41 percent who were still hopeful. Independents were split between 49 percent who said they were hopeful and 48 percent who said they had abandoned hope. Seventy-three percent of Democrats said they still had hope.
“It’s just too hard to believe our democracy could get any worse,” Blixt said.