The report is the work of Democracy Corps, the influential polling organization run by Democratic strategists James Carville and Stanley Greenberg. The two men found voters are nearly beside themselves about unemployment, angry about the deficit, pessimistic about the future and in a mood to punish Democrats if things don't get better soon. "This is about the economy, and it's not pretty," they write.
Most ominous for Democrats is the rise in the number of people who believe the country is on the wrong track. That number grew steadily through the later Bush years, reaching a high of 85 percent just before last November's elections. But with Obama's win, discontent began to subside. By Inauguration Day, the number was 66 percent. By March, it was 56 percent, and by May it was 46 percent. It was a remarkable turnaround, attributable mostly to the new president.
But since then, the turnaround itself has turned around. By July, the wrong-track number had inched up to 50 percent. It was 55 percent in September. Now it's 58 percent.
The reason is unemployment. When Carville and Greenberg asked respondents to list one or two of the most important problems facing the country, 64 percent named jobs — more than twice the level of concern about the deficit and rising healthcare costs, which were named by 29 percent each.
The pollsters found a lot of residual blame for George W. Bush. But they also found that Obama was gradually coming to own the economy. They read voters two statements. One said: "President Obama's economic policies helped avert an even worse crisis, and are laying the foundation for our eventual economic recovery." The other: "President Obama's economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses." Among likely voters, 44 percent agreed with the pro-Obama statement, while 50 percent blamed the president for deficits and job losses. As Bush recedes into history, the blame will only go up if conditions don't improve.