Swelling economic discontent has pushed dissatisfaction with the federal government to its highest level in 18 years, with the same forces that put Barack Obama on the road to the presidency two years ago now threatening to undo his party's control of Congress.
Two months before the 2010 midterm elections, likely voters now favor the Republican over the Democratic candidate in their congressional district by 53-40 percent, the widest GOP margin on record in ABC News/Washington Post polls since 1981.
Beneath that result: Broad rejection of the status quo.
• Ninety-two percent of Americans say the economy's in bad shape. A mere 24 percent believe it's improving. And for the first time numerically more say Obama's economic program has made the economy worse, 33 percent, than improved it, 30 percent. Views that he's helped the economy have dropped by 9 points since spring.
• A majority, 52 percent, now disapproves of the way Obama is handling his job overall, another first in ABC/Post polls. Intensity increasingly is against him, with those who disapprove "strongly" outnumbering strong approvers by 14 points. A record 57 percent rate him negatively on handling the economy, "strongly" so by an even wider margin, 2-1.
• Seventy-eight percent now describe themselves as dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working, up 14 points just since July to the most since October 1992. That includes 25 percent who are "angry," tying the record. Among likely voters, 30 percent are angry – and they favor Republican candidates by a vast 47-point margin.
There's more to trouble Democrats and cheer Republicans in this poll, conducted for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York. After his winning the White House on the mantra of change, 53 percent of Americans now say Obama has failed to deliver "needed change to Washington." And just half now say he "shares your values" or "understands the problems of people like you," both vastly down from their highs.
In July, 51 percent of Americans said they'd rather see the Republicans run Congress, to act as a check on Obama, than the Democrats, to support his policies. Now it's 55 percent; among likely voters, 61 percent. And Congress overall has a 25 percent approval rating, not its lowest on the books (17 percent in 1992, 18 percent in 1994), but hardly a happy number.
In one simple way to sum it up, ABC News' "Frustration Index," based on views of the national economy, presidential approval, anti-incumbency and dissatisfaction with government, has advanced to 72 on its scale of 0 to 100, after holding steady at 67 all year. It about matches its 1992 level, 73, and has been higher just once, 80, as the economy fell into the abyss in fall 2008.
Frustration is up in some unexpected groups, with the index gaining 6 points among moderates, liberal Democrats and non-whites, and 5 points among Democrats overall. And it's risen most steeply, by 9 points, among Americans who think the economy's worsening.
Some of that frustration has settled most clearly among supporters of the Tea Party movement. It remains controversial, with more Americans holding unfavorable views of the Tea Party than favorable ones, 45 percent to 38 percent. But the discontent behind it seems clear: the Frustration Index is 21 points higher among people who see the Tea Party favorably, 83, vs. 62 among its detractors.