A bipartisan group of pollsters and political strategists sketched a sordid picture of a nation deeply unhappy with its political leaders and a turbulent set of elections on the horizon in 2012 at the United Technologies/National Journal policy briefing on Thursday.
Politicians of all stripes should be wary of a public deeply distrustful of its leaders, they agreed.
Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster, said a recent survey he conducted asked voters if they would pull a theoretical lever at the ballot box to vote out the entire Congress. And 56 percent of them said they would.
“The message is we hate you,” Hart said.
Sarah Fagen, a former political director in the George W. Bush White House, described a “period of volatility” ahead for everyone in politics. “If you’re an incumbent you should be very, very worried,” she said.
Fagen predicted by November there would be some unexpected shocks to the political system – the losses of committee chairs, or lawmakers who were never perceived to be in danger.
Glenn Bolger, a leading Republican pollster who has numerous congressional clients, said there are indeed “a lot of nervous House incumbents.” And rightfully so, he said: “Nobody should feel comfortable, nobody should feel safe.”
The strategists and pollsters concurred the landscape is fertile for a potential independent candidate for president, but they less sure there was still time for such a candidacy.
“Somebody is going to have to be the eat-your-vegetables candidate,” said Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist.
Simmons described a public losing trust with all its major institutions with politics as “the leading edge.”
“I think it means danger for everybody,” Simmons said.