The New York Times polled the unemployed last week. The newspaper conducted a similar survey in December 2009. Taken together, the polls show a not-so-subtle shift in the attitudes of jobless Americans.
Party identification saw a two point drop for Republicans (now at 18%) and a two point pick up for Democrats (35%) and Independents (40%).
On which party would be better at job creation, the unemployed answered Democrats (44%) and Republicans (23%). Both parties lost a point since 2009.
Three-fifths of the jobless (59%) have exhausted their benefits or never qualified for benefits. Only 38 percent said they were receiving benefits, down four points in two years.
And that may be why everything else shifted! The glass is no longer half full; it's been drained.
The unemployed became far more liberal (plus 11 points) and much less conservative (down 5 points) since polled in 2009. And the distribution of their education levels has changed - more high school graduates (plus 15 points) and fewer with some college (down 6 points).
But what really shifted was their self-assessment of their class standing:
- In 2009, 37 percent described themselves as middle class. Now, only 22 percent do.
No wonder the wrong track numbers have grown from 59 to 71 percent among the jobless. Or that their distrust of government has reached 85 percent!
These Americans are jobless. They're not clueless. They know where the problem lies: in Washington ... and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Congressional disapproval is now 81 percent. Only 10 percent of the unemployed approve of what little they've done.
President Barack Obama gets much higher marks. But among the unemployed, even his approval numbers have tanked since 2009:
- Overall job approval has declined from 61 to 40 percent. Disapproval has grown from 29 to 49 percent.
- On handling of the economy, Obama's approval rating slipped from 57 to 32 percent. His disapproval rating shot up from 35 to 59 percent.
- On job creation, his approval rating went from 47 down to 29 percent. His disapproval rating hit 60 percent, a 16 point increase since 2009.
What must be unsettling, especially for the White House, the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign, is how deeply disillusioned the jobless are.
When three-fifths of the unemployed disapprove of the job you're doing on job creation - even after a ten week campaign to pass the American Jobs Act - it is time to recalibrate your strategy.
In the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, an estimated 40 million voters will come from households where someone has been unemployed in the last four years. Each knows how far down the economic ladder they have fallen.
Finding a way to put millions of them to work is the only strategy that can change their attitudes. Otherwise, the disillusionment now felt by America’s 29.1 million unemployed and underemployed will devastate the political landscape like a massive tsunami a year from now.
Union of Unemployed (reprinted)