By Steven Shepard
August 25, 2011Americans have turned on both political parties, according to a new Pew Research Center survey released Thursday that shows the ratings for most institutions of government, politics and other aspects of public life have reached all-time lows.
Only 11 percent of Americans are "basically content" with the federal government today, compared to 22 percent who said they were content this winter. The only other time the percentage of Americans who were content with government dropped below 20 percent was in March 2010, during the final days of the debate over the Democratic health care bill, when 19 percent told Pew's pollsters that they were content.
The percentage of Americans who approve of President Obama has nudged one percent lower over the past month, to 43 percent, and 49 percent now disapprove of the president's job performance, a new high in Pew polling. More troubling for Obama: 38 percent now "very strongly" disapprove of the job he is doing, almost equal to his overall approval rating.
Just 34 percent approve of Obama's handling of the economy, another new low. Fully three-in-five Americans disapprove.
The percentage of Americans who have a favorable impression of the Republican Party is now just 34 percent -- the lowest that Pew has recorded back to 1992. Just 43 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, which is not an all-time record, but it is close (38 percent in April 2010).
Congress tied its all-time low favorability rating: 25 percent. The 70 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of Congress is a new high for Pew polls.
The beat goes on: Republican leaders in Congress earn a woeful 22-percent approval rating, the lowest Pew has ever recorded (going back to 1994). Democratic leaders fare only slightly better at 29 percent (another all-time low).
Even non-governmental, public institutions have been pummeled. Just 41 percent have a favorable opinion of labor unions, tying a record-low set in February 2010. Business corporations score even worse: Only 38 percent have a favorable opinion, easily a new low in Pew polling.
As far as Obama's re-election prospects are concerned, he remains narrowly ahead of a generic Republican opponent but well within the danger zone for incumbents: 43 percent of voters would like to see him re-elected in 2012, while 40 percent would prefer a Republican win the election. Last month, 41 percent said they wanted Obama to win, while 40 percent chose the Republican.
Voters are becoming more aware of the Republican candidates. Fully 87 percent of voters have now heard of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, up from 82 percent in late May. Rep. Michele Bachmann's, R-Minn., name-ID has increased markedly over the past three months, from 54 percent to 84 percent.
But those increases in name-identification can come with a price. Though Bachmann is becoming more well-known, the number of voters who say there is "no chance" they would vote for her is increasing as well. Now, 56 percent of voters who said they have heard of Bachmann say there is no chance she could earn their vote in 2012.
The GOP's new national frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, debuts with 71 percent name-recognition among American voters, according to the poll. Of those who are familiar with him, 19 percent say there is a good chance they would vote for him, 28 percent say there is some chance, and 47 percent of voters say there is no chance they would vote for him.
The data indicates that Romney holds a slight advantage in electability: The percentage of voters who have heard of him that say there is no chance he will earn their vote is 42 percent, the lowest of all the GOP contenders.
The Pew poll was conducted August 18-21, surveying 1,509 adults. The margin of error for the main sample is +/- 2.5 percent. There were 1,205 registered voters, for a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.
By Steven Shepard
August 25, 2011