Increase appears to be political in nature
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' satisfaction with the state of the nation remains low -- at an average of 21% for the past week, including 20% in the most recent data, from March 1-3. But this measure has shown a slight but steady improvement from 14% in early February.
Gallup has measured national satisfaction daily since Barack Obama took office, and also did so in late October through December 2008. In the latter part of 2008, satisfaction ratings ranged from a low of 9% in Dec. 12-14 polling to a high of just 14% in the first few days after the election and after Thanksgiving.
Little seemed to change when Obama first took office -- in Jan. 21-23 polling, 14% of Americans said they were satisfied. After showing a brief improvement in late January, the percentage who reported being satisfied with the state of the nation settled back to 14% by early February. But since that time, satisfaction has shown a slight but steady improvement, and has been 20% or higher each of the last seven days.
Rather, the increase appears to be largely political in nature, likely reflecting a slightly more positive outlook on national affairs after the change in presidential administration and the Obama government's recent attempts to address the problems facing the country.
The higher satisfaction ratings in recent weeks are mainly apparent among Democrats and, to a lesser degree, independents. Democrats' satisfaction with the country has increased from an average of 20% for the first week of February to 27% last week. Independents have shown a smaller, five percentage-point increase, while Republican satisfaction has essentially stayed the same, aside from a slight decline in the middle of the month.
Notably, since late 2008, Republicans and Democrats have flipped as to which party is reporting higher average satisfaction levels. This is a common phenomenon Gallup has observed when previous presidential administrations have changed from one party to the other.
Since November, Democrats' average satisfaction level has jumped from 8% to 23%, while Republicans' numbers have declined from 20% to 10%. Independents show a slight improvement, from 12% to 17%.
Looking at this slightly differently, it can be seen that both Americans identifying with the party of the incumbent president and those aligned with the opposition party have shown at least slightly higher levels of satisfaction in February than at the tail end of last year, even as those parties have traded places. Specifically, satisfaction among those identifying with the party of the president is higher now (23% among Democrats) than it was in November (20% among Republicans). Likewise, the opposition party's supporters have also shown a slight increase (from 8% among Democrats in November to 10% among Republicans now).
American voters chose to change the course of the nation last November by electing the Democrat Obama to replace the Republican George W. Bush as president. To date, the change in government has apparently had a modest positive effect on Americans' perceptions of how things are going in the United States. But Americans are still well aware that the economy is in poor shape, and see little immediate prospects for improvement.
When satisfaction levels have bottomed out in the past, as in 1979 and 1992, it has taken roughly two years before returning to pre-decline levels.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,574 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 1-3, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.