Americans Believe Nation Headed Down Wrong Track, According to New Poll

Nov. 16, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Fifty-one percent of people believe the country is on the wrong track, according to a poll conducted by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.

The survey of 2,100 individuals from around the country was released Monday in conjunction with a daylong conference on money and politics sponsored by the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Thirty-one percent of respondents believe the country is heading in the right direction.

"The pessimism that we have seen expressed in national surveys over the past 15 months continues," said Government Professor Daron Shaw, who oversaw the polling along with Government Professor Brian Roberts and Texas Politics Project Director James Henson. "Americans are very concerned about the economy and unemployment, but also express concern about corruption and the efficacy of the political system."

The poll found 42 percent of respondents believe the economy, including unemployment and recent federal bailout packages, is the most important issue facing the country today. Health care ranked second among respondents' concerns at 17 percent.

Similarly, 95 percent of respondents rated jobs and unemployment as an issue of high importance, more than any other of the 15 issues included in the survey. Gay marriage ranked as the issue of least importance to voters, with just 37 percent characterizing it as a high concern.

"Our results," Roberts said, "suggest that an economic recovery will only go so far in restoring the public's trust in Congress. Perceptions of corruption and the role of money in politics are profound and are poised to impact voting decisions."

The poll also examined respondents' views on the role of money in politics. Findings included:

  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents say the source of a candidate's campaign contributions are a factor in how to vote, compared to 29 percent who say the amount a candidate raises is a factor.
  • Respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a hypothetical U.S. Senate candidate if he or she received campaign contributions primarily from friends and acquaintances compared to the tobacco industry or trial attorneys. But the amount of money the candidate raised had no impact on voter support.
  • The three biggest factors influencing Congress member's votes are campaign contributors, party affiliation and lobbyists, according to respondents who said constituents' concerns had the least influence.

The poll, which was conducted over the Internet Oct. 13-22, has a margin of error of 2.1 percent. Complete results and methodology are available online at the Texas Politics Project Web site.

For more information, contact: Gary Susswein, Office of the President, 512-471-4945; Brian Roberts, 512-921-2560; Daron Shaw, 512-232-7275; James Henson, 512-471-0090.

23 Comments to "Americans Believe Nation Headed Down Wrong Track, According to New Poll"

1.  Thomas said on Nov. 19, 2009

Finally, people are waking up. If even a UT poll says that progressive/liberal, socialist, quasi-communist governments like this one are failing, then good Lord, we may finally have a real country again.

2.  brad said on Nov. 19, 2009

This poll being generated from my alma mater and obviously a highly liberal school is confirmed by the fact that you have 37 percent concerned about gay rights. Give me a break. That is extremely high. If you took a normal poll of the nation you would find more conservatives and certainly less than 37 percent concerned for such an issue. This means you would find an even higher rate concerned that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

I love my university, but I do feel sorry for today's generation that has been fed a Hollywood lie about the percentage of gay people in our country.

Please consider a poll on the media and whether it is honest or dishonest. As a 56-year-old, my biggest problem with our world is the ignorance of the media, but yet the strong influence it still has over people. Look at the free ride Obama has gotten compared to anybody else, ever in politics. He has made more gaffs than anybody and has done it in less than one year. Normally the media would be all over him, but they are the ignorant ones who elected him and ignorantly called George Bush a liar. Don't get me wrong, I did not agree with a lot of Bush's policies, but he was honest and true to his convictions. You could say Obama is true to his convictions as more and more of his Muslim background is exposed. Of course, we always knew he was racist, but the media let that slide by.

3.  ken said on Nov. 19, 2009

We need to elect real representatives of the people--not lawyers turned professional politicians.

4.  Roger said on Nov. 19, 2009

I think that this poll should make a few more people think about how they vote and who they support and why. Excellent job, Texas.

5.  Terry Kennedy said on Nov. 19, 2009

You can add one more vote to that conclusion. People will not take personal responsibility in their lives until the government stops (or at least reduces) paying the way.

6.  WILLIAM NONUS said on Nov. 19, 2009

I lost trust in the direction of the country when:

1. There was no accountability on how the recipients of TARP monies could spend it. TARP was supposed to create jobs as well as prevent a meltdown in our economy.

2. We have no transparency or accurate reporting of what is going on in the federal government even though it was promised.

7.  Allie K said on Nov. 19, 2009

There was an e-mail that circulated about a year ago that highlighted with many statistics the fact that we the people vote the Senate and House members into place, and we can change them, and changing them is the only way to change what is happening. At the moment, a "clean sweep" campaign would be awesome, moving out all the old guard and bringing in new, non-party members into Congress. I put that forward as an option.

8.  Victor said on Nov. 19, 2009

The survey asks the wrong questions. It is not about jobs, money, health care or gay marriage. These are only second-order issues created by too much government. The people are upset about the assault on freedom, the Marxist agenda of our president, and a complicit and corrupt Congress. Ask "do you think government should be bigger or smaller," "what is more important, freedom or prosperity." Then, you will get to the root issues the American people really care about and that which is shifting their opinions and moving people to political involvement.

9.  David Kahn said on Nov. 19, 2009

Is 2,100 really an acceptable sample size in a country of 300 million? I would think not especially since the researchers are drawing such broad conclusions based on the results.

10.  K Patterson said on Nov. 19, 2009

I think these results exemplify what most of my contacts feel. The only people who seem to believe our country and economy are in a better place or moving toward a brighter outcome are news organizations and Warren Buffet.

I am hearing more and more regret concerning votes cast in the last election. Those same individuals plan to vote differently in the upcoming elections.

11.  Robert Howard said on Nov. 19, 2009

If you polled me, it would be 100 percent thinking we are going in the wrong direction. I think your figures are low.

12.  Chris said on Nov. 19, 2009

Deceptive headline. Does UT have a statistics department? What's the margin of error? Would it be more accurate to say a plurality of Americans think the country is on the wrong track? And what do they mean by country? I think the country is on the wrong track because of the visceral mudslinging and lying that goes on. By the citizenry, media and the government.

13.  Dave Schubert said on Nov. 19, 2009

Every misdirection deserves a correction. This time the country is awakening to the disconnection of our elected leaders to the core beliefs we hold so dear. When the poles close in the next major election it will show the will and determination of the American people to be a free capitalistic society.

14.  Tom Prudhomme said on Nov. 19, 2009

We continue on the wrong track which started more than 60 years ago with the undeclared Korean war. Not since WWII has the Congress initiated a declaration of war (and that one was a no-brainer). The Constitution clearly specifies that war must be declared by Congress, not the president. The Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars have all been started and managed through the executive branch, not Congress. This is a clear violation of the Constitution. Also we are losing our freedoms at an alarming rate (e.g. the Patriot Act) as the executive branch continues to take more control. If we are to survive we must reverse this trend. As a start I propose that we throw out our current Congress lock, stock and barrel and impose a two-year term limit on the presidency as well as the Senate.

15.  larry cowan said on Nov. 19, 2009

When a health care bill passes and the economy improves by next summer the "teabaggers" will be left in the dustbin of history. Hook 'em, Horns. Class of 72.

16.  Mary Beserra said on Nov. 19, 2009

I am pleased to see that my alma mater was willing to publish the results of this survey. I am very concerned about unemployment and this new health care bill and the associated tax increase. I am going on a second interview, hoping to get a job that pays exactly what I made 21 years ago. (This is after I have been applying for jobs since May.) Something is horribly wrong. My personal plan is to stay out of debt and substantially reduce my standard of living, because I believe that our country is entering an unprecedented time of financial and moral depression. Unfortunately, I will have three kids in college next year. Pray for me!

17.  Wayne D. Parker said on Nov. 20, 2009

The statement to wipe out our current Congress is top priority and that means both Democrat and Republican. I am 88 and have seen much. Us old dogs should go. Get us back to a Congress working for the people.

18.  Aaron said on Nov. 20, 2009

What an odd right-wing slant to the commentary thus far. It is unfortunate that demographic isolation leads some to believe that it's impossible for 37 percent of the population to be concerned about gay rights unless they were "brainwashed by Hollywood." Texas, particularly outside of Austin, is hardly representative of the country at-large. Strange how some would discredit any poll that does not support their political views, since "everyone they know" shares those views.

It is also sad, if not frightening, that some believe the level of dissatisfaction is due to people "waking up to Obama's Muslim background," as if being Muslim discredits one's values. And for one expressing such overt prejudice to call Obama racist? What a peculiar comment.

19.  jack vaughan said on Nov. 20, 2009

Perhaps being from a generation that believes in truth being on both sides of the political aisle, I was willing to give the Obama team the benefit of the doubt even though I didn't vote for him. How wrong I was. The systematic "cram down" of our individual loss of freedom is palpable. This administration is the most reckless and ideological I have seen in my many years. We need to remove the leftist zealots and clean up government in general.

20.  Brenda Justice said on Nov. 20, 2009

I also believe the "nation" is headed down the wrong track. However, researchers can survey and poll all they want. Citizens can discuss their disbelief and anger about our government with one another. And devout protesters can march and demonstrate for or against the issues and policies that affect them. But, nothing is going to change until every person steps up and decides to make a difference by voting. One vote CAN make a difference when they add up to thousands and millions. Not even half of the people eligible to vote actually go and do it. So, yes, we as a nation are headed down the wrong track by the leaders we elected. We can't just blame the government, we have ourselves to blame as well. If the results of this poll are truly accurate, and people are not happy with the way our leaders are doing their job, why isn't it reflected in who we elect? EVERYONE needs to vote. Everyone from small business owners to coffee shop waitresses, to stay-at-home moms or dads. If you don't vote, you're not counted. If you're not counted, you don't have a voice. If you don't have a voice, no one can hear you.

21.  Richard C said on Nov. 22, 2009

I believe the poll is correct but the numbers are way off. Just look at the comments on the poll. Not one represent the so called 31 percent who believe the country is headed in the right direction. Our president and the liberal-slanted Congress have a socialist agenda, and they do not represent their constituents and they refuse to listen to our opinions. I hope everybody remembers this at the next election and fires the Congressmen and women who voted for any government expansion.

22.  Barry Ryan said on Nov. 22, 2009

We are resuffering the mistakes of the Carter era. Now we must reprise the corrections produced by Ronald Reagan and his team. The blueprint is there. We must have the courage to see it through.

23.  Michael A. Bartlett said on Nov. 30, 2009

I am tired of paying for people who do not make any contribution to our society. We treat "takers and robbers" as if they deserve "another chance" not once or even twice. This includes those who use other peoples funds to manufacture their own wealth. How many congressmen and senators leave office the same or poorer than they were before holding office? How many work under Social Security or use public schools for their children? How many use the same health care program as most of the tax payers? How many news people pursue the current flawed legislation to its source? (Whose idea was it to let takers of life serve a short time in prison?) Investigative reporting should be able to let me know exactly who introduced and who voted for ACORN and who set up the monitoring of this, and then put this information on the front page of the newspaper, not hidden of page 15. Who came up with the idea of putting "riders" on bills before Congress?