A Representative Sample of the People Has Spoken

While it would be unwise for any politician to govern by focus group, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll offers some support and some clear suggestions for future action for the White House.  The poll, which was conducted in early February 2010, had 1,084 respondents – certainly a small group to be determining policy for 308 million Americans – but the results do resonate. 

Among the responses: 62 percent believe that the president is trying to work with Congressional Republicans (but not the other way around); 60 percent believe that the president understands their problems; 62 percent support the president’s proposal to end tax cuts on the wealthy; and 60 percent believe that the president understand the needs and problems of people like themselves.  These results imply that a majority of Americans might be likely “persuadables” regarding elements of the president’s agenda.

However, the results do not reflect unalloyed support for the president’s efforts thus far: 53 percent believe that the president has not offered reasonable solutions to the economic problems they or their family are facing; 52 percent believe that the president has spent too little time trying to fix the economy and create jobs; and 56 percent believe that the president does not have a clear plan to create jobs.

Taken in conjunction with multiple polls demonstrating that the greatest concern for most Americans right now is jobs1,  the president has a clear directive to focus on jobs creation.  Furthermore, poll respondents certainly appear to be hungry for proposals they can believe in.  In a January 2010 survey2, most Americans indicated that government must have an active role in resolving the current economic crisis, but had doubts about the government’s ability to do so.  This suggests that if the president articulated a jobs creation plan that was responsive to doubts and appeared to have a reasonable, practical chance of success, it would go a long way to buoy American confidence in our economic future. 

Of particular note to those on both sides of the political aisle, poll results indicate that 75% of Americans are dissatisfied with Congress and 81% believe that we should elect “new people.” This suggests that the status quo in American politics is not working.

Although some of these poll results seem grim, there are positive take-aways.  A leader who could enunciate practical, workable solutions to the jobs crisis would be likely to avoid the current dissatisfaction with politicians.  However, given the current American political fatigue, those solutions would have to be transformative and workable.  Proposals that reflect a 2010 global economy, that lift us all up together, and that reflect a nuanced understanding of current conditions would be both.

1. http://documents.nytimes.com/new-york-times-cbs-news-poll#document/p4; http://www.gallup.com/poll/1675/Most-Important-Problem.aspx

2. Allstate/National Journal Heartland, Jan 2010

Tags: Opportunity, economic justice, government, jobs, public opinion (all tags)


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