One year out from the 2008 election, Americans are deeply pessimistic and eager for a change in direction from the agenda and priorities of President Bush, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.Not only that, the battle for Congress will be competitive as well. The poll finds public opinion on Congress at lower levels than that of the Bush administration, at just 28 percent (Congressional Democrats have a 36 percent job approval rating).
Concern about the economy, the war in Iraq and growing dissatisfaction with the political environment in Washington all contribute to the lowest public assessment of the direction of the country in more than a decade. Just 24 percent think the nation is on the right track, and three-quarters said they want the next president to chart a course that is different than that pursued by Bush.
Overwhelmingly, Democrats want a new direction, but so do three-quarters of independents and even half of Republicans. Sixty percent of all Americans said they feel strongly that such a change is needed after two terms of the Bush presidency.
Dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq remains a primary drag on public opinion, and Americans are increasingly downcast about the state of the economy. More than six in 10 called the war not worth fighting, and nearly two-thirds gave the national economy negative marks. The outlook going forward is also bleak: About seven in 10 see a recession as likely over the next year.
The overall landscape tilts in the direction of the Democrats, but there is evidence in the new poll - matched in conversations with political strategists in both parties and follow-up interviews with survey participants - that the coming battle for the White House is shaping up to be another hard-fought, highly negative and closely decided contest.
I commented on the state of public opinion in a post earlier this week: "Republicans Facing Tough Year in 2008."
It's clear that next year looks to be the best electoral environment for the Democrats in generations. I don't see realigning tendencies in the electorate, however. Voters are uncertain about the future and are looking for change. Still, I would argue that continued success in Iraq will help the GOP (some polls find less pessimism on the war), which is all the more reason for Republicans from the administration on down to develop better public relations regarding our progress.