April 4th, 2008
10:03 AM ET

81% Say Nation Is Headed on the Wrong Track

If you read the New York Times this morning that's what you woke up to. The results a new poll that found Americans are more dissatisfied with the country’s direction than at any time since the Times/CBS News poll began asking nearly two decades ago.
The paper reports 81% of those questioned said they believe “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” up from 69% a year ago and 35% in early 2002.
Only 4% of the 1,368 surveyed said the U.S. is better off than five years ago.
What's everybody so unhappy about?
What are you unhappy about? Jobs? Iraq? Immigration? Global warming? Tax season?  I'd love to know.

And what do you think this attitude might mean for the election come November? Will the Democrats benefit?
President Bush has acknowledged economic troubles, but a recent article suggested he is in denial about the seriousness of what's happening in the economy. (Remember, he "hadn't heard that" gas was approaching $4 a gallon?)
And how will the state of the economy play for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, who has said when it comes to the economy, he "doesn't know much about it." 

– Randi Kaye, 360° Correspondent


Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

Filed under: Randi Kaye
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Jenine from Winnipeg

    Hi everyone,
    Slater – I liked most of your blog. Really good post.
    I mean if I ask myself just what is it that is being represented? What would my answer be? I mean what is our presence communicating to the world?
    Peace? Human Rights? Or we bullying and power mongering? Or is it all about making the world a much safer place to live.
    Oh give me a break.

    But on the other hand now that it has gone this far there is no magic wand to wave to just disolve all of the damage that has been done. There would be reprecussions for pulling out. Now that we have grabbed the sleeping doggie by its ears...

    War is expensive.

    Sorry for being so negative but I rather liked what Slater said.

    April 4, 2008 at 9:26 pm |
  2. Annie Kate


    Where to start? My list would be:
    1. Off shoring of good jobs with no good jobs with equivalent pay to replace them. The corporate fat cats that do this get richer and have more tax breaks while those of us laid off struggle to make ends meet and feed or family.

    2. The economy and the growing disparity between the haves and the have nots

    3. The cost of a college education gets higher and higher making a college eduction out of reach for some. For those youth who want to go to college and realize their dreams the cost is either cutting them off from the chance or forcing themselves into mountains of debt from student loans which they then are sadded with for years to pay after college.

    4. The war in Iraq – there is no clear objective to indicate to anyone when we are done and can come home.

    5. The health care crisis – the medical community has put out so many scare tactics on national health care like Canada and France has that we haven't instituted it here so millions go uninsured and without care. One indicator of a good health system is the infant mortality rate – our country's infant mortality rate is high, like that of a developing country and not a large well established nation like we are. Why can't we look at the health care systems of France and others that work (there infant mortality rates are one of the lowest in the world) and model ours on theirs? Everyone should be able to get care when they need it.

    6. A president and vice president that go around the Congress and the courts and the Constitution to accomplish their own agenda and Congress does nothing to call them to task on this – perhaps Congress needs to look at what impeachment is alll about.

    7. Our lip service to the environment while Bush lets his buddies in Big Coal blast the Appalachian mountains away to get what coal is left in those hills – its very little and it destroys mountains and forests with a savagely that leaves moonscapes where once beautiful mountains stood, polluted air and water, and a total destruction of the rich biodiversity in those mountains.

    I could go on but I think you get the drift....

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 4, 2008 at 9:09 pm |
  3. Debi, Oklahoma

    The thing I'm most unhappy about is that people believe everything they read in the newspaper or see on the news.

    April 4, 2008 at 6:44 pm |
  4. Susan

    I think there is a lot to be unhappy about in the world and probably fifty people to blame for each of those things. I believe that America has gone way off track and we can complain and play the blame game all we want but it is within our power to change the way things are. I don't honestly believe it has anything to do with the election but electing a president that would focus on the importance of individual happiness regarding the state of the nation would be a very good start. An even better start is redefining happiness and how it relates to progress.
    I don't believe that happiness is measured by the amount of money that I do or don't make, it is my attitude regarding the situation I find myself in that determines my happiness. As an individual, when I am unhappy I try to discover the source of that unhappiness and I strive to change the things that I can about the situation and then focus on learning from the things I cannot change. I believe that this nation's focus on accumulating wealth has caused us to derail from the very foundation that this country was founded on. The creation of this nation provided an opportunity for the citizens to truly be responsible for their own happiness. Unfortunately, money created a great disparity between those people who were actually capable of providing the basic necessities of life in order to discover true happiness. In this country we live in, poverty is a disease. It is not a physical one, although its symptoms can be, but a social disease. A state of physical and mental dysfunction that is tearing this country apart. Some people who have everything they need either don't or decide not to see the homeless person that goes through their trash in order to get money to buy food. I think that the idea of money was essentially to equalize the exchange of goods because it trancended the true service it represented. Now, we live in a world where people are so focused on money because of the happiness that it is supposed to bring. Money doesn't bring happiness but in a perfect world it provides the opportunity for happiness to exist and grow and create positive and progressive changes in the society at large. I think there is a thing as too much money and most of the unhappiness that exists in this country revolves around spending too much money on irrelevant things and not enough money on the things that really matter. Those things that would create a more peaceful and prosperous atmosphere for everybody are sacrificed for the wants and petty desires of those that hold more money than they know what to do with. As a country we need to focus on healing the individuals that make up our own society and take a stance of isolationism until we are as close to perfect as we can get. Then when we finally decide to try and help the world focus on the greater good, we have a foundation of learning and discovery to stand on. I don't think that things will truly change until every individual takes on the responsibility of creating a better world for everybody and not just themselves. I believe that through cooperation we can all access those things we truly need and find a better way to define happiness.

    April 4, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  5. Lisa

    If we were really to list everything wrong with the economy and state of the US, the moderators wouldn't post it because it would be way too long.

    That being said, I'd like to know the alternate reality where Bush (and probably most of government live) where the economy isn't doing so bad and gas is not approaching $4/gallon - I'd like to go live there, too.

    April 4, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  6. Praetorian, Fort Myers, FL

    While over 80% may feel America is on the wrong track.
    The are infinitely divided on their views of what the right track is!!

    April 4, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  7. Cathy

    I was watching CNN this AM- the state of the economy in this county is extemely disturbing- although Washington isn't using the (R) word- my Husband and I went through one resession-this has all the earmarks of the prior-my concern is: when will Washington be honest with the American people- how much of the national debt is being held by foreign powers? I feel as though we are being sent to auction- how much of our banks, large corporations,ports and our infra-structures are being owned or managed by foreign powers??? will there be a United States of America for our Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren- will they know and have the freedom we as Americans have enjoyed

    April 4, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  8. Erica Athens,GA

    Our nation's problem is much deeper than the war or the economy. It's about our nations lack of conscience and that we have become morally bankrupt in our dealings with each other and with other nations. We have lost our sense of community and no longer care about our fellow americans. We are adrift in a perfect storm of arrogance and willful ignorance. I take this polling to be a sign that we may be slowly waking up to this reality and will hopefully take measures to change directions instead of hitting the snooze button.

    April 4, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Laura L - Chicago

    Randi, I think most people would answer "all of the above." Right now I think the economy and jobs are weighing the most on peoples' minds because it impacts them personally everyday. It is not just President Bush who is in denial - it's also the economists.

    I always "laugh" when I read these reports that say that there isn't any inflation. Overall, no, maybe there is not much. No one, however, disects the data and acknowledges that the ridiculous increases in energy, healthcare (both necessities) and education result in downward pricing pressure on non-necessities. Thus, the overall picture looks fairly constant.

    Someone needs to seriously get a plan as to how to address these three costs that are killing Americans. The attempts to do this have been lame at best thus far:

    Take energy - everyone is talking about Ethanol. Just another boon to the farmers when the reality is that Ethanol is NOT the answer - if you used all our corn we still couldn't produce anywhere near the fuel we need (and so then we would be short of fuel and either wouldn't have any food or the cost of food will then go up astronomically...).

    On education, we have a situation where college costs are increasing well over 7% per year. Unless you want to seriously risk your principal, you can scarcely "out-invest" that kind of an increase if you are trying to invest to pay for your kids to college. One of the reason costs have gone up so much is because it is too easy to get loans - too much free money to cover the costs, leaving people saddled with loan payments they can barely make on an entry-level salary. It's supply and demand - as long as easy money is being handed out the cost will keep going up. (Hmmm...sounds like the housing market....)

    On healthcare, there are too many problems to list. One that nobody talks about is that the FDA approves drugs that they shouldn't. Take recently, for example, Vytorin. It doesn't even work but people are taking it and the rest of us who pay insurance premiums are paying for it. Add to that the likes of Avastin and Erbitux that barely extend peoples lives (my husband was one of them, so I feel I have a right to say this) - they are riduculously expensive (up to $10,000 per treatment) and not what worth what is paid for them (again by our fellow insured through rising premiums). Contrast that with Jonas Salk's polio vaccine that actually worked and did some good –he was not in it for profit. (He refused to patent the vaccine.) Add to this that pharmaceutical companies should NOT be allowed to advertise on TV. That is a huge expense that is passed on to the consumer and you shouldn't go tell your doctor what medicine you need - he or she should tell you when you come in to see them with a problem.

    The bottom line is that nobody is close to coming up with any real solutions on these three issues. No wonder people are fed up.

    April 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm |
  10. Jerry, SA Tx

    Anyone who embraces or aligns themself with dullard's presidency, should seek medical treatment for dementia.......................

    April 4, 2008 at 1:18 pm |
  11. Joe in Southern CA

    ok then lets get some guy with no experience to take over the situation and get us back on track. That will make a lot of sense.

    April 4, 2008 at 12:59 pm |
  12. Bobbie

    What made "The Greatest Generation" different from these times is that everyone had a loyalty to the country as a whole. Big business didn't just consider profits; they considered the welfare of the nation, too. Politicians didn't just consider getting elected again; they knew they always had an ultimate duty to the welfare of the nation. Media personalities knew it was their duty to report news for the good of the nation, not ridiculous gossip tidbits. All of us need to be great once again! Business CEO's, politicians, newspeople, and we citizens. No decision, certainly one as important as who will be the next President, should be reduced to manipulation of the news and the citizens. We all need to keep this country's welfare as our primary concern becuase we risk losing this great nation if we continue to rip ourselves apart!

    April 4, 2008 at 12:56 pm |
  13. Slater

    What am I unhappy about? Here's the list, if you really want to know.

    1. Our government is not transparent enough; everything is a guessing game for the general lemming and I am afraid we are headed to a communist way of life (see #2 & 5 for more on transparency);

    2. Due to the government not being transparent and trusting my judgment enough to make an informed democratic decision, I feel anxiety, irritation, frustration, which leads me into an overall unpatriotic attitude;

    3. With the current state of the country and economics, the future looks bleak. I feel that when I finally do get to the top of my career, I will still be a serf: working for the benefit of the rich;

    4. The current state of affairs have tipped the scales heavily in favor of the rich. The middle class is disappearing, causing me to consider citizenship in another country, such as Ireland, where my family has roots;

    5. Forget the idea of transparency that Obama promises, I could care less what he, his wife, Clinton or any other highbrow person in their circle brings in as income every year; my care is: Where do my tax dollars go? For example, I am really paying for medical care for homeless, welfare recipients and unemployed people, when I have no insurance of my own? Incidentally, if my tax dollars are going to the salaries of the aforementioned political figure, I would like to know that as well.
    For me the so called "transparency" of providing income tax records of high seated political figures is a media publicity stunt that is just absolute worthless information unless I am informed about how it affects my income and outgo DIRECTLY.

    6. Our military was created SPECIFICALLY to protect and regulate our borders, and instead, we have been in the business of bullying other countries, to the demise of our own failure to regulate the influx of illegal immigrants. This has had a seriously negative effect on our economy, personal relations, and has created what is characterized as a "recession" in our economy. How can we regulate our borders when we are in other countries trying to bully them around? How can we seriously expect them to look up to a country that is falling fast in all the areas it propounds to lift them up in? How can we regulate our economy when we are not regulating banks and bank loans and we are spending billions in a country that will have no effect on our affairs whatsoever?

    7. We need an overhaul in the WORST way. We need to stay out of the affairs of other countries and police our own country. We need to take care of our own. What else is there? We build a culture to support and nurture one another. This is the last things we seem to care about.

    8. Our travel toward technology is doing nothing other than ruining our relationships by assisting us in isolating ourselves from one another. Cell phones, Blackberries and the like are killing our social fabric. Why can't we do things in moderation?

    9. Need I go on, really?

    April 4, 2008 at 12:40 pm |
  14. JT

    Remember, Bush said he will change how Washington work.

    Remember he said he is a "Uniter not a divider"

    Remember he said he give back money to the people because they how to spent their own money better than people in Washington.

    We hear similar tone from OBAMA.

    We should be careful this time.

    April 4, 2008 at 12:32 pm |
  15. KC, Texas

    Hey Randi,

    If they want to know what the economy is like....ASK US!!

    I'm praying with all my might that I will get to keep my house because everything cost so much more than it did when I bought my house. I am a single mother with 2 children. We are all having a hard time just making ends meet. I no longer have a landline phone, no cable or sattelite for the tv, no extras that are now considered luxuries. This also includes supplemental insurance and full coverage auto insurance. I can not afford a newer more economical car because with my vehicle being paid off now (it is 12 years old and still a very reliable vehicle thank God) , a car note and full coverage are out of the question.

    When I saw that our troops are paying MORE for gasoline than the Iraqi troops (for the first time) I want us TOTALLY out of Iraq. No more building them back up, no more assistance....if you can not afford that one luxury to those from the USA that are there in an effort to help Iraq get on a democratic track....pull our soldiers out. I'm done.

    I think that the energy commission is full of brain dead puppets. Corn and soybeans per acre give us only 30-50 gallons of oil. Algae, yes.. pond scum, can give us 100,000 gallons PER ACRE. You would have to have an IQ of 2 to not see this as a far better alternative. The fact that they will not do this is PROOF that they are in the pockets of special interest. Big oil. Ethanol from corn or soybeans is a money making scheme.

    I am sick of the president lying and telling us that he hadn't heard that gas was $4 a gallon, I'm sure he still has "buddies" in big oil that are keeping him very up to date on how much he is making off of this issue. The 4% that were polled were politicians and big oil execs. They DANG sure weren't normal Americans that pay for these things themselves.

    And as for Johnny boy saying that he doesn't know much about the economy is a lie. His wife owns vested interest in beer. I'm sure that SHE knows about the economy. You better pull your head out of the sand John. Making a statement like that will get you no votes and lose many you thought you had. Americans want to know that ALL the candidates running for president have a great deal of knowledge about OUR problems or you WILL NOT be elected. Ever.

    Sorry for the rant. But I'm not happy. But when mama ain't happy...nobody's happy.

    April 4, 2008 at 12:30 pm |
  16. Melissa

    I'm unhappy that our borders are not secured yet and that our government still panders to illegals. I'm unhappy with the state of our economy – our dollar is devalued daily while our costs rise. I'm unhappy that we've been fighting in Iraq for 5 years now with no real plans on bringing our troops home. I'm unhappy that Bush spent $42 million to tell us that we may/may not receive a stimulus payment.

    Neither the Republicans nor Democrats are doing anything that would give me the incentive to vote for them.

    April 4, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
  17. S. Pickens, Ozark, PA


    Obama 08.

    April 4, 2008 at 12:14 pm |
  18. Lilibeth

    Randi, you asked what everyone’s so unhappy about? There wouldn’t be enough room in this blog to fill my answer. The fact that voter turnout is reaching record numbers is telling of how people are desperate for change because they are extremely displeased with the current state of affairs in this country. To say that this election is the most important in recent U.S. history is not an exaggeration.

    Edmonds, Washington

    April 4, 2008 at 12:13 pm |
  19. Lee

    Hi Randi – what is everyone so unhappy about? Yes – everything that you already mentioned is on the list, but over and above that, I think that the consistent inability or unwillingness of this administration to accept facts and reality, and act accordingly, certainly makes me unhappy, and very worried.

    The "cushion" of good fortune that so many Americans enjoy is quickly eroding, and unless there is more strategic action taken in a much more efficient and effective manner than has happened in the past, 'recovery' may be enormously more difficult to achieve.

    John McCain's lack of economic knowledge will absolutely hurt his chances in November, but we'll have to see where the economy ranks in the list of priorities on voting day. I have my own thoughts about what may happen on the international front in the two to three weeks before our election, and that may take precedence over economic issues. Remember that in the hierarchy of human needs, safety and security is always first and foremost. And I say that reluctantly, as I am a definite Obama supporter.

    Anyway – thanks for the post – it's an important subject to continue discussing!

    April 4, 2008 at 11:50 am |
  20. Cliff

    I wish someone in a position to do so would pose a survey question to the effect that "If someone owns a house outright or can afford their monthly payments, should they be required to send an extra $50 a month to a fund to subsidize those who took on more then they can afford?

    See if a majority then turns up in favor.

    April 4, 2008 at 11:47 am |
  21. Abby

    President Bush is in total denial, and it is not very comforting to the average american that he doesn't know how much gas is when that is something that in some way effects the average american daily. Whether it is filling up your car or the price of milk and bread rising b/c of transportation costs. I mean gas rose 10 cents from yesterday morning to yesterday afternoon, and when asked, Bush gets that smug look on his face and plays dumb. Real comforting.

    April 4, 2008 at 11:29 am |
  22. kevin lynch

    Greed has taken over America. We need serious reform that redistributes money to all Americans. We have allowed big American companies to cry poor mouth. Such as Nike whom started as a one room sneaker shop into multiple building operation hiring thousands of Americans. Then they decide to move out of America?
    We need to make a law that when an American success company moves operations out of America, we bar their product from being sold in America!!!
    President Bush and Cheney have robbed Americans of America and their treasures purposely funneling Billions to their cronies!! This will be known as the biggest heist in the world as they all are building their own country in Dubai!
    Illegal immigration grew by triple since 911; why? I believe that this was purposeful as big companies benefitted greatly while the hard working American suffered greatly. In massachusetts illegal immigration has crippled our construction industry! Their are no controls over this situation.
    As illegal immigrants are taking our jobs; the politicians seriously increse work visas to other countries as these workers are brought in from Brazil to take our jobs for lower wages; the govt gives these companies tax credits when they hire the brazillians. I know an owner of an excavation company that has hired 100 of these brazillian workers as they recieve govt grants to hire them; to add insult to injury there major contracts are at our Military basas in massachusetts such as Hanscom.

    April 4, 2008 at 11:23 am |
  23. Jennifer Rathbun

    Often things look bleak because we are not doing what we should. Didn't someone say, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?"

    Sometimes we get off focus from the things that are really important. No I do not need a new car. Coffee out of the can is just fine. My kids do not need to be involved in 3 extra-curricular activities.

    Cut back. Refocus.

    There are many things we cannot control in our lives. But there are many things we can.

    April 4, 2008 at 11:22 am |
  24. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Randi,
    I personally know people who never watch the news and feel that the country is about the same as it ever was. Then you have people who soak up every detail of what's wrong with the country and doom and gloom is their outlook.
    Are we having some tough times, yes we are. But there are people and countries enduring far worse than ourselves. I just hope we can remember to be grateful for living in a country that others would die to be a part of. There's a lot of things we can do to help each other get through these tough times. Let's get busy.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    April 4, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  25. Taj

    Surprised? HELL NO! We knew 7 years ago when Gore lost, Bush won. We knew it 40 years ago when we went into Vietnam. Wake up America, grow up, stop not until we build a new & prosperous America. Vote Obama or Clinton. It is time off for Republicans because they have worked so hard to screw up this great nation.

    April 4, 2008 at 10:57 am |
  26. Sharon, Elma, New York

    It's time McCain got off the nostalgia express and joined the rest of us in the real world. Gas prices are killing the economy and all he seems able to do is live in past war glories. Time to get on the economy train and learn something valuable about the lives of real people and how to fix our current crisis. Dismissing economic woes by stating he doesn't know much about economics gives credence to the thoughts that he can't cope with a modern world.

    We need to compete with the new economic power centers, like China and India, not just constantly talk about attacking those with whom we disagree. In the end, war solves nothing and only creates more bitter lessons. I'm confused as to why a man who almost died in one useless war keeps touting the current useless war.

    While we're at it, I just read Glenn Beck's blog on the glories of big oil. The man needs a reality check. Between his defense of big oil and Wal-mart his brain seems to have gone off the rails.

    April 4, 2008 at 10:43 am |
  27. Sherri

    Kudos to you on the Shanks family story. Brava, Brava. I find it very disheartening that government officials generally appear to be oblivious to 'real' life. Real life is your grocery bill going up twenty dollars a week for the same items. Real life is gas at $3.67 a gallon. Real life is basic health insurance touted as a 'bargain' at $500 a month- for one person. Real life is roads disintegrating, contaminated food, convicted sexual predators being hired into the very areas they should be banned from. Real life is kids not learning to read and write and dropping out of school because the subculture group in music and media make not going to school too tempting to resist. Real life is elected government offcials committing bad acts- giving a public 'mea culpa' and going on to a better job in the private sector. Real life is the CEO's of huge corporations robbing investors blind and walking away with tens of millions- and not even a slap on the wrist. The phrase 'listening to the people, bending to the will of the people' Who are 'the people'? It's not the average American, that seems certain. I think many Americans are just worn out and fed up with being ignored, used, manipulated,and dismissed by those in positions of power. This country was founded on the principal of 'one person, one vote'- yet that has been swept under the rug in order to favor entities like the Electoral College, Delegates and Superdelegates, et al. I think there are a lot of good, decent, hardworking, caring people in this country. We give more to victims of tragedies than any other industrialized nation in the world- but can't feed, clothe, educate, provide medical care, house- our own citizens in a decent fashion. There is a country that exists away from the East Coast and West Coast- and our government officials are very much out of sync with folks who don't enjoy the 'perks' of public life.

    April 4, 2008 at 10:41 am |
  28. Cindy

    Oh it is very easy to see that the U.S. has veered way off track. I mean look at our economy it is in shambles and getting worse! I don't think anything they do will help it in the near future.

    And the war in Iraq isn't helping any it is sucking us dry!! And the Iraqi's obviously don't care! I mean they run and won't even stand and fight to stabilize their country.

    Then we have our national debt which is astronomical!! How are we ever going to get that back down!? Plus we owe a lot of money to other nations which just adds more to that.

    Then we can't forget the government itself!! It is ridiculous! The elected officials who are supposed to do our bidding is just doing things to help themselves money wise or to further their careers.

    So all in all that little bit there shows we are in terrible shape!! We need a new direction and fast!!

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    April 4, 2008 at 10:29 am |
  29. Susan Kilduff

    As I read this, it sounds to me like you're endorsing one political party. Is that your intention? Or are you suppose to be unbiased as a news reporter? I mean no disrespect, if that is your intention, you have that right. That's what our guys (the Military) do for us.
    I do believe we have a number of factors at work, maybe our system of government is due for a change. One person in charge of economics and the other in charge of our safety. Is it time for a change? If we don't open our minds up to see things out of a box, we may be in even bigger trouble.

    Thank you,

    April 4, 2008 at 10:21 am |