80% of Americans think the country is “out of control”.
That finding – from a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll – is simultaneously terrifying, tragic and comedic, which is another way of saying it’s a reflection of reality in 2020.
The survey was conducted from May 28 through June 2, which means it does not capture Friday’s better-than-expected jobs report, or Donald Trump’s celebratory Rose Garden press event lauding what the president called “the greatest comeback in American history”.
Most readers will agree the number is actually closer to 90%. After all, if you cannot say, definitively, whether you believe the country is or isn’t “out of control”, then you either have no conception of what’s going on outside your own household, or else you lean in the direction of believing things are off-kilter.
“‘Out of control’ that’s America in 2020”, lamented Jeff Horwitt, a Democratic pollster from Hart Research Associates, who conducted the poll alongside Bill McInturff and GOP researchers at Public Opinion Strategies.
“[That’s] one of the few things Americans can agree upon”, Horwitt added, referencing respondents’ near unanimous characterization of the US as a train off its tracks. He called it “the one finding that we can definitively state given the tumult and torment of the past 12 days”.
The poll also showed Trump’s job rating remaining generally steady, despite the abject turmoil gripping the nation.
“Those are remarkable findings that speak to the power of our partisan silos”, McInturff remarked.
The partisan divide shows up in attitudes towards George Floyd’s death while in police custody. 81% of Democrats and 59% of Independents said his death and the actions of police are more concerning than the demonstrations. Only 29% of Republicans agree.
More than half of white voters (54%), 65% of Latinos and 78% of African Americans are more concerned about Floyd’s death than the protests, suggesting the pull of partisanship is far stronger than any racial divide in the country – that is telling.
Trump still trails Biden by a fairly large margin (seven points), as has been the case for nearly a year in a head-to-head national matchup. Trump has never been within five points of the former vice president in this poll. Trump’s support base remains the same – he enjoys strong backing from white voters, men, and white voters without college degrees.
Notably, Trump holds a strong lead over Biden on the economy, an advantage that may be bolstered by May’s jobs report. The whole concept of Trump as an economic mastermind is undermined by the president’s business record, but 2016 proved voters don’t care about that.
More generally, though, Biden has an advantage on key issues including COVID-19 and, relatedly, health care policy.
The headline from the poll – the 80% bit – is in keeping with the findings from the most recent Monmouth survey, which showed a record percentage of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.
When you consider the above, note that on some interpretations, the overarching goal of foreign interference in America’s democracy isn’t promoting the candidacy of any one person. Rather, the goal is to sow discord, division and chaos.
The full results from the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll can be found below.