The fed-up-and-won't-take-it-anymore mood locally, as we vote in city and county elections, is not a Seattle-area phenomenon. In fact, our reactions here are generally milder than in the country at large. Several surveys have been released over the past few days confirming an angry national mood. The rage expressed at recent congressional healthcare forums is only one expression of it.
Opponents of President Obama's and congressional Democrats' evolving healthcare plans (now presented by Obama as "health-insurance reform" rather than general health reform) have jammed meetings being held by Senators and Members of Congress to discuss the issue. Many of the protesters, as characterized by the White House, Democratic National Committee, and media, have indeed been partisans. But a large number have not. Rather, they have been people of all political persuasions looking for a forum where they could vent not only about the pending health proposals but about the financial and auto-industry bailouts, expensive stimulus package, and rapidly mounting federal debt. The health forums have provided a convenient outlet for general frustrations.
The largest and most significant national survey was the one completed last week by CNN. More than 300,000 citizens logged in to express opinions on President Obama's second 100 days in office. The respondents did not constitute a scientific sampling of voters. CNN viewers and online readers tend to be better educated, slightly to the left or right of center, and generally independent. Participants were limited to computer users. But other surveys during the same time frame brought in comparable results. And the 300,000-plus respondents to CNN were a huge sample.
The bottom line of the CNN survey: Voters are displeased all around. The only national leader to get better than a C grade in the survey was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who got a C-plus for her performance in the administration's second 100 days. Other grades given by voters:
- Economy: Obama was given a C-minus for his handling of economic issues, with a significant 36 percent of voters giving him an F. In none of the 50 states, did he receive a better grade than C-plus.
- Health care reform: His administration's efforts toward this goal got a D. Some 49 percent of respondents gave an F grade.
- Foreign affairs: C.
- Vice President Biden: C-minus' with 35 percent giving an F.
- Our Senators: The overall national grade was C-minus. That was the same grade given Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell by Washington state respondents.
- The Congress: D with 52 percent giving an F.
- GOP leadership: D with 40 percent giving an F.
- Media: D with 49 percent giving an F.
- President Obama: C-minus with 39 percent giving an F. Only the District of Columbia, with a black population majority, gave Obama a grade as high as B-minus. Washington state respondents gave him a C.
These results do not necessarily translate to eventual success or failure of the Obama healthcare proposals or to electoral outcomes in 2010 elections. After all, the Republican leadership and Congress in general fared even worse in the ratings than did the incumbent administration. The results clearly were a warning signal to media, where public confidence has been deteriorating steadily over the past decade.
Such surveys, remember, are only snapshots in time. If, a year from now, the economy is in recovery and employment rising, other results can be expected. But right now, do not be mistaken, Americans in general are displeased. To see how much things have changed since last January, consider that Hillary Clinton, once thought the most polarizing of political figures, received the highest marks in the survey and also a much smaller percentage of F votes than many others.