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Americans Say They Are Dissatisfied With Washington

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Americans Say They Are Dissatisfied With Washington


Americans Say They Are Dissatisfied With Washington

Americans Say They Are Dissatisfied With Washington

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A recent poll shows Americans are dissatisfied with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. If the supercommittee fails to agree on a way to reduce the federal deficit, the negative feelings toward Washington could escalate.

DAVID GREENE, host: For more on the supercommittee and also all the political headlines swirling over the last few days, we're joined now by NPR's Cokie Roberts.

Good morning, Cokie.


GREENE: So Congress is already pretty unpopular and David Welna just said the success of the supercommittee is looking increasingly elusive. What happens if they fail to act? Do they get even less popular?

ROBERTS: Well, I think so. People are really getting discouraged. Last week, Gallup showed what the polling organization called historic negativity toward the government. Eighty-one percent said they were dissatisfied with the government. That's nine points higher than the last high, which was in the Bush administration.

But from the mid '80s, all the way through September 11th, when the positive attitudes of government went way up, the negative ranged about in the 40s. So it's twice as high as the average.

And other institutions are also suffering no confidence votes - business, banks, the media - and I think that's what we're seeing reflected in these demonstrations that started on Wall Street and now seem to be picking up around the country.

GREENE: Yeah, these demonstrations are something to see. I mean there have been hundreds of people in New York the last couple weeks. I mean they've been stopping traffic, they've – and people are beginning to imitate them around the country. I mean, is this sort of part of a movement or is it just, you know, a few hundred people getting the word on social media sites?

ROBERTS: Well, it's hard to know. I was in Spokane, Washington over the weekend at the public radio - doing - for a public radio station there - and that's a small town and these demonstrators were there. And that has to be troublesome to the Obama campaign, because these are the kinds of voters that he attracted in 2008. Young people, at that time, were all coalescing around him. He was the change.

And now they're saying that there's no one in government who's doing it for them. They don't seem to have a platform or a program to say – except to say pay attention, we're being left out. They're against corporate greed, Congressional impasse; they have signs saying we want a Congress that works. We're the other 99 percent, is another.

But they don't have a connection to Obama. He seems to have lost these people, the enthusiasm gap for Democrats is much lower than it is for Republicans in this campaign, and he also seems to be losing ground in grass roots fundraising. His aim of getting 20,000 small donors by the end of September has not worked. He's gotten slightly more than half of that.

Now, some of this is completely normal. He's in office. But he needs these folks. He has to get their enthusiasm and he can't just run saying, you know, vote for me because you don't like the Republican, which seems to be the current strategy.

GREENE: Well, and obviously the Republican Party hasn't coalesced around anyone, but there was some campaign fodder this weekend, a new controversy involving Texas Governor Rick Perry and his hunting days in Texas, the hunting land his family leased for many years. I mean what is this and is it going to have traction?

ROBERTS: Well, what it does is throw him off again. He's having trouble getting traction. And this is the story of a hunting lodge whose name included the N-word in the name of the lodge. And Perry says his family painted over it, other people say not soon enough. Herman Cain, the African American candidate on the Republican side, says it's very offensive.

So it's just keeping Perry on the defensive. And you know, this is the problem of the national versus the Texas spotlight and how he plays on national stage. Meanwhile the Republicans still seem to be searching for another candidate. There are reports that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey could decide this week whether to get in or not.

GREENE: Well, and he keeps denying it, but let me ask the question this way. If he were to get in, I mean does it matter at this point?

ROBERTS: Well, that's the real question. Look, Christie would have the same problems as any other neophyte. As Rick Perry is learning, running for president is completely different from running for anything else, and he's only run for Governor of New Jersey against an unpopular candidate.

It's also not clear whether voters want a candidate like that this election or somebody who's calming things down and being the grownup, and that's what we'll see as the election plays out.


GREENE: You are listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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