Heartland Monitor Poll

Broken Beyond Repair?

New Heartland Monitor poll shows little hope for political compromise or action to help average Americans.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Nov. 14, 2014, 2:10 a.m.

Far more Amer­ic­ans be­lieve the coun­try would be­ne­fit from great­er com­prom­ise between Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats than from either party amass­ing uni­fied con­trol of the White House and Con­gress, the latest All­state/Na­tion­al Journ­al Heart­land Mon­it­or has found.

But, across party lines, few Amer­ic­ans ex­pect such co­oper­a­tion to in­crease after a bruis­ing elec­tion that left Re­pub­lic­ans hold­ing both con­gres­sion­al cham­bers for Pres­id­ent Obama’s fi­nal two years.

The sur­vey, con­duc­ted in late Oc­to­ber just be­fore the GOP’s elect­or­al sweep, found that even among Amer­ic­ans who iden­ti­fied with either party, only a minor­ity be­lieved that uni­fied con­trol by their side would “make life a lot bet­ter” for people like them.

Only about two-fifths of self-iden­ti­fied Re­pub­lic­ans said that uni­fied con­trol of the White House, House, and Sen­ate by their party would sig­ni­fic­antly im­prove life for people like them; al­most ex­actly the same share of Demo­crats agreed. Among in­de­pend­ents only one in nine thought uni­fied Demo­crat­ic con­trol would be­ne­fit them “a lot”; only one in 20 in­de­pend­ents thought the same about uni­fied Re­pub­lic­an con­trol.

Amer­ic­ans were much more likely to say their lives would be­ne­fit from “Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans com­prom­ising more to solve prob­lems in Wash­ing­ton.” Just over half of those sur­veyed though such co­oper­a­tion would make life a lot bet­ter for people like them. Brynn Lob­ato, a Farm­ing­ton, N.M., home­maker who did not identi­fy her party al­le­gi­ance was among them. “It doesn’t really mat­ter if it’s Demo­crats or Re­pub­lic­ans [con­trolling Con­gress],” she said in an in­ter­view after the GOP takeover. “We just need to work to­geth­er, peri­od. We just have to work to­geth­er and find out what is work­ing and what isn’t work­ing and tap on the strengths and move for­ward with those. I hope they’ll be able to do good, pos­it­ive things for our na­tion.”

The be­lief that more co­oper­a­tion could pro­duce great­er be­ne­fits united groups that of­ten di­verge on polit­ic­al ques­tions, in­clud­ing 53 per­cent of whites, 58 per­cent of non­whites, 66 per­cent of Demo­crats, and 53 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents. The big ex­cep­tion: Just 42 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­an par­tis­ans said they thought they would be­ne­fit much from more com­prom­ise—a re­flec­tion both of the res­ist­ance to Obama and the de­mands for ideo­lo­gic­al pur­ity among many GOP act­iv­ists.

The res­ults were part of the 21st All­state/Na­tion­al Journ­al Heart­land Mon­it­or Poll. Na­tion­al Journ­al and The At­lantic are re­leas­ing the poll’s find­ings over the next week.

Wheth­er they fa­vor or fear com­prom­ise in Wash­ing­ton, few Amer­ic­ans are ex­pect­ing to see more of it. Just 13 per­cent of those sur­veyed said they be­lieved that “as a res­ult of [the] elec­tion, Con­gress and the pres­id­ent” will co­oper­ate more than be­fore to get things done. A slightly lar­ger 21 per­cent thought the pres­id­ent and Con­gress would work to­geth­er less, while ex­actly three-fifths ex­pec­ted no change in the cur­rent level of co­oper­a­tion.

Few things more united Amer­ic­ans than the ex­pect­a­tion that their rep­res­ent­at­ives won’t come to­geth­er in Wash­ing­ton: only 19 per­cent of Demo­crats, 11 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans, and 10 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents said they ex­pec­ted more co­oper­a­tion along Pennsylvania Av­en­ue after the elec­tion. Anna Fox of Chester, Md., a polit­ic­al in­de­pend­ent and co-own­er of a tree-re­mov­al ser­vice, cap­tured the very cau­tious op­tim­ism that ran through many con­ver­sa­tions with poll re­spond­ents. “I like to think it can’t get any worse,” she said, also in an in­ter­view after Sen­ate con­trol flipped. “These are tough times right now. I’m feel­ing good that things will move in a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion—if people do what they say they are go­ing to do.”

More of those sur­veyed looked out­side the polit­ic­al sys­tem for changes that might im­prove their lives. The poll offered re­spond­ents a list of sev­en pos­sible sys­tem­ic changes in Amer­ic­an life that might be­ne­fit people like them (in­clud­ing uni­fied party con­trol in Wash­ing­ton or great­er bi­par­tis­an co­oper­a­tion). Two op­tions clearly topped the list: 62 per­cent said “U.S. com­pan­ies in­vest­ing more money in Amer­ica and hir­ing more Amer­ic­ans” would make life a lot bet­ter for people like them. Sixty per­cent said the same about “more Amer­ic­ans tak­ing the re­spons­ib­il­ity to work hard, im­prove their skills and edu­ca­tion, and provide for their fam­il­ies.”

Lob­ato was one of many who placed more weight on busi­ness than gov­ern­ment de­cisions. “We need to keep jobs here,” she said. “I don’t think we need to be ship­ping them over­seas. We need to build our own na­tion up, in­stead of find­ing cheap­er labor else­where in oth­er coun­tries. I think that’s one of the biggest prob­lems that we have. People are will­ing to work.”

More com­prom­ise between the parties ranked third (54 per­cent a lot bet­ter), fol­lowed by great­er vol­un­tar­ism from av­er­age Amer­ic­ans (36 per­cent), and more sup­port from U.S. com­pan­ies for com­munity groups and char­it­able or­gan­iz­a­tions (30 per­cent); uni­fied polit­ic­al con­trol for Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans fin­ished last.

The sur­vey found a broad con­sensus on the value of great­er re­spons­ib­il­ity from both em­ploy­ers and in­di­vidu­als. Ex­actly the same 60 per­cent of both whites and non­whites said great­er in­di­vidu­al re­spons­ib­il­ity would be­ne­fit people like them a lot; al­most ex­actly three-fifths of Re­pub­lic­ans, in­de­pend­ents, and Demo­crats con­curred as well. Whites and non­whites were also al­most equally likely to see be­ne­fits in great­er do­mest­ic in­vest­ment from U.S. com­pan­ies-and Re­pub­lic­ans (at 67 per­cent) were ac­tu­ally slightly more likely than Demo­crats or in­de­pend­ents (63 per­cent and 59 per­cent re­spect­ively) to view that as a ma­jor be­ne­fit.

That con­ver­gence, not sur­pris­ingly, quickly dis­solved on ques­tions meas­ur­ing Obama’s per­form­ance and agenda. Just 41 per­cent of those sur­veyed said they ap­proved of his job per­form­ance, with 49 per­cent dis­ap­prov­ing. Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ing has var­ied little in the past four Heart­land Mon­it­or sur­veys dat­ing back to Septem­ber 2013, though his dis­ap­prov­al rat­ing has mod­er­ated some­what from its 55 per­cent level last Novem­ber.

Irene Be­lozer­sky, a so­cial work­er and a Demo­crat in Brook­line, Mass., who re­spon­ded to the sur­vey said Amer­ic­ans frus­trated about the eco­nomy are un­fairly blam­ing Obama for glob­al changes no pres­id­ent can con­trol. “I don’t think one lead­er or group of lead­ers can change that much,” she said. “I think the laws which gov­ern eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment in the world right now are too com­plex for one per­son.” Obama’s health re­form law, she says, is provid­ing “tre­mend­ously im­port­ant” be­ne­fits to the low-in­come fam­il­ies she works with. But Robert Shew, a broad­band tech­ni­cian in Wilkes­boro, N.C., be­lieves the pres­id­ent’s agenda is com­pound­ing the coun­try’s prob­lems. “Obama is sup­posed to cre­ate jobs; we have less jobs,” says Shew, an in­de­pend­ent. “He’s sup­posed to help all these people with Obama­care, but that’s hurt­ing my health care, it’s hurt­ing oth­er people’s health care. It’s hurt­ing busi­ness.”

Among whites—who again de­cis­ively pre­ferred Re­pub­lic­ans in last month’s elec­tion—just 34 per­cent ap­proved of Obama’s per­form­ance, while nearly three-fifths dis­ap­proved. Among minor­it­ies, the num­bers were vir­tu­ally re­versed, with al­most three-fifths ap­prov­ing and about three in 10 dis­ap­prov­ing. Obama re­ceived pos­it­ive marks from only about half of His­pan­ics, though, as well as few­er than three in 10 whites without a col­lege de­gree, and only about two-fifths of col­lege-edu­cated whites.

Obama saw only slight im­prove­ment on an­oth­er long-term trend ques­tion. Just 25 per­cent of those sur­veyed said they be­lieved his agenda would in­crease op­por­tun­ity for people like them to get ahead. That num­ber, which peaked at 40 per­cent the first time the Heart­land Mon­it­or asked the ques­tion in Ju­ly 2009, has changed little since Septem­ber 2013. But the share who said Obama’s agenda is di­min­ish­ing their op­por­tun­it­ies dropped in the latest sur­vey to 37 per­cent, from 46 per­cent last spring. The pro­por­tion that said he’s hav­ing no im­pact on their pro­spects in­creased from about one-fourth last spring to one-third now. Non­whites (at around two-fifths) re­main twice as likely as whites (one-fifth) to say Obama’s policies are im­prov­ing their pro­spects; but the share of whites who said his agenda is ac­tu­ally re­du­cing their chances dropped 10 per­cent­age points since April, with the dif­fer­ence al­most en­tirely shift­ing to­ward say­ing he was hav­ing no ef­fect.

That tracks the very mod­est thaw evid­ent on oth­er ques­tions of eco­nom­ic health. The 44 per­cent who said their fin­ances today are ex­cel­lent or good was un­changed from polls in Septem­ber and Novem­ber 2013; the 55 per­cent who de­scribed their fin­ances as only fair or poor was stat­ist­ic­ally un­changed from those sur­veys too. Skep­ti­cism re­mained wide­spread about the real be­ne­fits of the un­em­ploy­ment rate’s steady de­cline over re­cent months. “There’s a lot of talk of jobs be­ing cre­ated, but the real­ity is, most of those jobs are un­der­em­ploy­ment,” said Mar­tin Tozer of El­lens­burg, Wash., who was re­cently laid off from his job as a whole­sale dis­tri­bu­tion man­ager and does not identi­fy with either party. “The real­ity i, the jobs are part-time, the jobs are low-wage, they are not ca­reer jobs. There have been no ca­reer jobs that have been cre­ated, es­sen­tially, in the last six years.”

Look­ing for­ward, though, the sur­vey cap­tured a very slight de­cline—al­beit still with­in the mar­gin of er­ror—in the share of Amer­ic­ans who ex­pect their fin­ances to de­teri­or­ate over the next year, and a cor­res­pond­ing in­crease in the share who ex­pect it to re­main the same. Still, only about two in five Amer­ic­ans say they ex­pect to gain ground over the next 12 months, with about one in nine ex­pect­ing to lose it, and just un­der half be­liev­ing they will re­main in place. Minor­it­ies ex­press con­sid­er­ably more op­tim­ism than whites.

Con­sensus re­turns on a fi­nal meas­ure, though around a pro­foundly neg­at­ive judg­ment. Just 9 per­cent of those sur­veyed said they ap­proved of Con­gress’s job per­form­ance, while 80 per­cent dis­ap­proved. That tied the low­est con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al rat­ing the Heart­land Poll has ever re­cor­ded, and it united Amer­ic­ans of all par­tis­an pro­cliv­it­ies: only 10 per­cent of in­de­pend­ents, 9 per­cent of Demo­crats and 8 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans gave Con­gress a pos­it­ive grade in the sur­vey. A uni­fied Re­pub­lic­an Con­gress now has the op­por­tun­it—and the ne­ces­sity—to demon­strate it can im­prove on that dis­mal ver­dict.

The latest All­state/Na­tion­al Journ­al Heart­land Mon­it­or Poll is the 21st in a series ex­amin­ing how Amer­ic­ans are ex­per­i­en­cing the chan­ging eco­nomy. This poll, which ex­plored how Amer­ic­ans rate their pro­gress at nav­ig­at­ing their ob­lig­a­tions at work, home, and their com­munity, sur­veyed 1,000 adults by land­line and cell phones Oc­to­ber 22-26. The sur­vey was su­per­vised by Ed Re­illy, Jeremy Ruch, and Jocelyn Land­au of FTI Con­sult­ing’s Stra­tegic Com­mu­nic­a­tions prac­tice.

Janie Boschma contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
Trump Signs Border Deal
1 weeks ago

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Trump Declares National Emergency
1 weeks ago

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
1 weeks ago

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
1 weeks ago

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

House Passes Funding Deal
1 weeks ago

"The House passed a massive border and budget bill that would avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of September. The Senate passed the measure earlier Thursday. The bill provides $1.375 billion for fences, far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded to fund steel walls. But the president says he will sign the legislation, and instead seek to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.