Poll: Anger, Anti-Incumbency: It's Frustration, 2010-Style


Anti-incumbency's spiked to a new peak, anger at the government has tied its high, Americans' customary approval of their own representative in Congress has hit a 16-year low -- and a new ABC News index measuring all this pent-up discontent is well above the boiling point.

It has all the makings of a hot political summer.

Click here for a PDF with charts and questionnaire.

The mood's captured in ABC's newly minted Frustration Index, based on four fundamental measures of public attitudes -- ratings of the president's performance, views of the economy, satisfaction with government and support for incumbents. Figured on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 the grouchiest, the index today stands at 67. It's been higher just twice in available data -- in 2008, as the economy fell into the abyss, and in 1992, amid the debris of the last deep recession.

VIDEO: George Stephanopoulos and Matthew Dowd break down voter sentiment.
America's Frustration Index: Voter Sentiment

Click Here: ABC News' Frustration Index Explained

The sign reads "incumbents beware." The Frustration Index is higher than its estimated level in 1994, when the Republicans seized control of Congress for the first time in 42 years; and in 2006, when the Democrats took it back. (See details of the index, and historical data, here.)

Other data from individual questions in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll make it look even more like a political pigeon shoot. Consider:

One in four Americans is now angry with the way the federal government is working, up seven points in less than two months to match its record high, set in 1992.

Just 29 percent are now inclined to re-elect their representative, the fewest in ABC/Post polls since 1989. (It was 32 percent in April.) Sixty percent now say they're inclined, instead, to look around for someone new -- the most on record.

The number who approve of their own representative in Congress has fallen beneath 50 percent for the first time since 1994. It's now 49 percent, with 44 percent disapproving, a record high. Approval was 20 points higher as recently as spring 2007, and has been this low only in 1992 and 1994.

Approval of Congress overall is flat, at just 26 percent -- likewise sharply down from a recent high of 44 percent in spring '07. It's been lower, bottoming out at 17 percent in 1992. But running against the institution has rarely looked so enticing.

By a wide margin, 60 percent to 37 percent, the public says the country's "seriously off on the wrong track" rather than headed the right way. While that's essentially unchanged this year, "right direction" sentiment has dropped by 13 points from its recent peak just over a year ago, when hopes for better days accompanied the start of the Obama administration.

Frustration Index: Poor Economy Fuels Public Discontent

In case there's any wonder where much of this comes from: More than a year and a half after the economy fell into the ditch, 88 percent of Americans still say it's in bad shape. Just 30 percent say it's improving -- better than it's been, but not great. And there's been a seven-point drop, again to 30 percent, in the number who say the federal stimulus has helped -- calling into question the purchasing power of that administration talking point.

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