Frustration Index: Still Hot in the Kitchen

By Gary Langer

Feb 7, 2012 7:00am

Public frustration has eased a bit from summer and fall levels, but it’s still plenty hot in the kitchen.

The ABC News Frustration Index stands at 68 on its scale of 0-to-100, cooling just slightly from readings of 72 in July and November.

The change reflects slight gains in presidential approval, an easing of anti-incumbent sentiment, and a dip in dissatisfaction with the government overall.

While those shifts are based on less-bad economic indicators, most believe the economy is still struggling: 89 percent of Americans say it’s in bad shape, which has remained steady in recent months. But fewer say the economy is in “poor” shape, that is 42 percent now vs. 50 percent in back in July.

The Frustration Index, based on these gauges, is a measure of political and economic discontent, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. It’s been as high as 80, in the fall of 2008, and as low as 39 in 1998.

At 68, the ABC News Frustration Index has  moved a bit below where it was in August 1992, at 73, shortly before the first President Bush lost his re-election.

The index has improved chiefly among groups loyal to President Obama. Among Democrats, it’s gone from 60 in July to 50 now. Among liberals, it’s gone from 61 in November, to 57 now. And merging those groups, among liberal Democrats, it’s gone from 55 in November to 47. Among nonwhites, another generally pro-Obama group, it’s gone from 69 in November to 53 now.

There’s been little movement elsewhere. The Frustration Index jumps to 74 among independents and to 84 among Republicans, about as high as it’s been lately in both groups. It’s 75 among conservatives, 84 among conservative Republicans, and 73 among whites.

Of the individual components of the index, the president’s approval rating is now 50 percent, up from a career low of 42 percent in October.  As many as 75 percent of Americans are dissatisfied or even angry with the way the federal government is working, a slight decrease from 80 percent in July and November; and 53 percent say they’re inclined to look around for someone new to support for Congress next fall, down from a record 69 percent in August.

Negative views on the economy, as noted, are 89 percent. (See Monday’s story for full results and question wordings.)

The index 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.

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