USA Today–an Up with People newspaper if there ever was one (and I don't mean that in a bad way)–reports on the increase in pessimism in these United States.
In the [recent Gallup] poll, 60% [of Americans] said they were dissatisfied with "the way things are going in the United States at this time." Except for a survey two weeks before the invasion of Iraq…a year ago, that is the most negative reading since 1996.
The question about the general direction of the country is one of the fundamental judgments voters make in deciding whether to support a president for re-election. That makes the public's pessimism, if it persists, a serious problem for the Bush campaign.
Bush's job-approval rating was a respectable 50%, however, which has been a sort of dividing line for presidents seeking re-election. Since 1948, no president who maintained an average job-approval rating of 50% or better in his re-election year has lost a bid for a second term. No president with a rating below 50% has won….
Concern about the economy appears to be driving down public satisfaction. Asked to identify the most important problem facing the country, the top two responses were the economy in general (21 percent) and jobs in particular (19 percent). They ranked far above fears about war, including the conflict with Iraq, at 11%. Concern was rising, though at single digits, about the federal budget deficit and gas prices.
The poll referenced above was taken before the Spanish bombings, so it's unclear how that might have affected U.S. mood.