The GOP opportunity amidst the anger and chaos.

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street. There’s nobody anywhere seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it…”

Okay, so life isn’t quite as bad as when it was described by newscaster Howard Beale in the 1976 movie “Network,” but our latest NBC/WSJ poll* is out and it feels like Americans followed Beale’s advice to go to their windows, open them, stick their heads out and yell (or tell your pollster on the phone): “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” 

Americans register their disgust on a variety of measures:

  • For the first time since President Obama took office a majority (52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) say the country is off on the wrong track.
  • Congress’ approval rating continues to languish – 65{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove of the job they’re doing, including 71{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents and almost half (47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Democrats.
  • In December last year 52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of the public thought this year would bring”Democrats and Republicans in Congress in a period of unity by working together and reaching consensus.” Today, 57{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} blames both parties for the partisanship in Washington.

It gets worse…three-quarters (76{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right “only some of the time” or “never.” To provide some context, this is worse than during/after Watergate, the Iran Contra Affair, or the Clinton Impeachment. The only time this measure has been worse is right before the 2008 elections and (hardly a coincidence) during the last go-around on health care reform when the Clintons were trying to jam government-run care through Congress.


There is no doubt this is bleak data, but it also provides a huge opportunity for the Republican Party to present its case to the American people and to be the out-Party that benefits. Certainly, if Republicans pick up some seats in next week’s elections – particularly in New Jersey and Virginia – it will be a turning point and a foundation from which the Party can build. It’s time for the GOP to offer a different way, to connect with the country, and to make a compact with voters for 2010.

 *National survey of 1,009 adults conducted October 22-25, 2009

(Public Opinion Strategies partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.)

Public Opinion Strategies