Hot and Bothered, Frustration Remains High

By Gary Langer

Nov 8, 2011 7:00am

Americans are steamed, and the economy’s providing the heat: The ABC News Frustration Index stands at 72 on its scale of 0 to 100, one of its highest readings on record.

The index, based on presidential approval, ratings of the economy, dissatisfaction with the government and anti-incumbent sentiment, matches its level in September 2010, shortly before the Republican Party seized the reins of economic discontent to take control of the House of Representatives and score major inroads in the Senate.

The public has not mellowed since, particularly among those most stressed economically or least enamored of the Obama administration.

The index, drawn from the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, soars to 85 among Americans who say their economic situation has worsened since Barack Obama took office, 83 among those who rate the economy as “poor,” 82 among those most worried about their standard of living and 81 among people who most fear they won’t have adequate resources for retirement.

Politically, it’s 86 among Republicans (their highest in data since June 2010), 78 among conservatives and 78 again among strong supporters of the Tea Party political movement. It peaks at 87 and 88, respectively, among people who prefer Herman Cain or Mitt Romney to Obama in the 2012 presidential election, vs. the mid-50s among Obama supporters.

But frustration isn’t limited to those partisan groups. The index is 74 among registered voters (another high since June 2010) and independents alike. It’s even 61 among liberals, up from a cooler 52 in fall 2010, and 56 among Democrats, compared with a recent low of 50 in June.

The index has ranged from a low of 39 in 1998 to a high of 80 in fall 2008. It previously reached 72 in July, in fall 2010, and in spring 1992. It’s a highly uncomfortable reading for an incumbent president: The index reached 73 in August 1992, shortly before the first President Bush lost his bid for re-election.

The Frustration Index, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, correlates strongly with other political and economic measures, including consumer confidence and views of whether the country is headed in the right direction. It also correlates closely with election outcomes, including the rate at which incumbents are re-elected and the loss or gain of House seats by the incumbent president’s party.

Click here for details on how we’ve constructed the ABC News Frustration Index.

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