Poll: Most Americans Unhappy About State of US as Election Nears

A man looks at signs for a store that is closing in Niles, Ill., on May 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(CN) — The Pew Research Center reported Tuesday that while nearly half of American citizens are hopeful about the future of the country, most are angry or fearful and very few are proud of the U.S. at the moment.

Additionally, a majority of Americans say they’d vote for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden over incumbent Republican Donald Trump if the presidential election were held today, according to the new Pew poll.

The nonprofit research organization, which received online survey replies from 4,708 panelists from June 16-22, found that while 31% of respondents said they were satisfied with the country’s direction in April, only 12% shared this sentiment in the latest survey.

Researchers found that anger and fear are bipartisan emotions: both Democrats and Republicans indicated dissatisfaction, though the unhappiness was more pronounced among Democrats. In all, 71% of Americans say they are angry about the state of the U.S., and 66% expressed fear.

While 46% of overall respondents said they were hopeful about the state of the nation, 53% said they were not, and only 17% said they feel proud when they think about how things are going in the U.S.

“We’re in the midst of a pandemic, and we’re also in the midst of a significant and challenging time when it comes to the conversations surrounding race in our nation,” said Capri Cafaro, an executive-in-residence at American University’s School of Public Affairs. “You put these things together on the backdrop of soaring unemployment rates that are generally related to the pandemic, and you look at how the United States is being viewed by our global neighbors…The mood of the nation is obviously reflecting the reality of what we are collectively going through, which is a great deal of uncertainty, on every level.” 

Notably, hope has grown among black and Hispanic respondents. While only 22% of whites and 26% of Hispanics said life will be better for future Americans compared to today, 33% of black people said the same. These numbers are up 16 points for black adults and 10 points for Hispanic adults compared to their replies in a Pew poll conducted last September.

Minorities’ rising optimism may be surprising considering the nationwide protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other people of color at the hands of police. But Cafaro, a former Ohio lawmaker, said the protests’ success may be a contributing factor to this statistic.

“Any casual observer can see that this [moment] is different than what we’ve seen in the recent past when it’s come to demonstrations against police brutality,” she said.  

“We’ve not seen this level of rapid response from industries, from popular culture, from corporations, responding and rising to the moment,” Cafaro added. “Maybe that is providing people of color some hope that their voices, their concerns, are being taken seriously and truly being heard.”

Less than five months out from the November general election, Trump lags 10 points behind Biden. Pew surveyed 3,577 registered voters for Tuesday’s report – of them, 54% say they would vote for Biden if the election were held today, while 44% said they would support Trump.

This is a larger gap than Pew recorded in the run-up to the 2016 election between Trump and Hillary Clinton, and an 8-point jump over the 2-point lead Biden had over Trump in an early April poll.

The poll result also dovetails with Trump’s declining approval rating. In March, 45% of Americans approved of how Trump was doing as president, and that number slipped only slightly to 44% in April. But the new survey found only 39% of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance and 59% disapprove.

Very few — just 3% — of voters who disapproved of Trump in March now approve of his performance as president. And a majority, 55%, say that Trump changed American political discourse for the worse during his presidency.

Adults 65 and older are the most positive toward Trump, as 48% of them approve and 48% disapprove, while black and Hispanic adults are the most disapproving — 86% and 69%, respectively.

Comparisons to previous Pew polls show that Trump’s approval rating has been declining among younger voters, lower-income voters and those who live in places that have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s a perfect storm for an incumbent president who has not really exhibited the type of leadership that the American public is used to during a crisis from the president of the United States,” Cafaro said. “We’ve seen him taking political shots across the bow, name-calling, inconsistency in policy. … We’re really just seeing the realities of how President Trump has risen to the challenge — or not risen to the challenge — during a time of crisis and turmoil for the nation.”

Voters also indicated that Biden was more even-tempered, empathetic and honest than Trump, whom they did not say was a good role model as often as they said Biden was. The one trait Trump came out ahead in was energetic, and the candidates are tied in voters’ perception of their courage.

Of the 4,708 total respondents, 1,994 said they were Republicans or lean Republican, while 2,545 said they were Democrats or lean Democrat.

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