JACKSON, Tenn. – March 16, 2011 – A majority of Americans are frustrated by a U.S. political system that seems to ignore the voices and opinions of U.S. citizens, a prominent pollster said March 16 at Union University.
“People want Republicans to lose, and they want Democrats to lose,” said Scott Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports. “They want them both to lose at the same time, but haven’t figured out a way to make that happen.”
Rasmussen spoke in the Carl Grant Events Center as part of the 12th annual Union Forum luncheon lecture series. One of the nation’s premier sources for public opinion information, Rasmussen has been an independent pollster since 1994 and is a frequent guest on FOX News, CNBC, BBC and other major media outlets.
Public opinion doesn’t change in response to what politicians say, Rasmussen said, but changes based on what people encounter in everyday life – and such a dynamic has been a common theme in U.S. history.
That experience with everyday life is what has prompted Americans overwhelmingly over the past 40-50 years to support cuts in government spending and a reduction in the size of the federal government, Rasmussen said. But despite public support for that policy, the last year when government spending decreased from the previous year was 1953, the year Elvis Presley recorded his first single.
According to Rasmussen, such continued disregard for the will of the American public is why voters are sensing a growing disconnect between themselves and the government. Voters have concluded “that if we have to rely on politicians for change, well, there’s really no hope,” he said. “There is no trust in the process.”
He cited the government bailouts as a catalyst to the most recent examples of political frustration in the United States and as evidence why people don’t think politicians in Washington are talking about the nation’s problems in a serious way. Nobody has bothered to explain why spending has gone out of control, Rasmussen said, and though Republicans have proposed various spending cuts, nobody is willing to address three components of the driving forces to governmental spending – Social Security, national security and Medicare.
That negativity can take its toll on a pollster who must daily confront statistics and polls indicating dissatisfaction with the country’s direction, he admitted. But despite the pessimism, Rasmussen said he has reason for hope because the American people overwhelmingly believe in the ideals that created the nation in the first place.
Another reason for optimism, Rasmussen explained, is that the American people are well ahead of their political leaders when it comes to embracing changes that are good for the nation. He expressed confidence that ultimately the voters will get politicians in place who line up with their viewpoints, which will result in a positive outcome.
“Ronald Reagan didn’t create the tax revolt,” Rasmussen said. “He simply rode the wave.”
Rasmussen also addressed the 2012 presidential election, saying that it will likely be a referendum on Obama’s presidency, and that the state of the economy at that point will be a major determining factor in the election’s outcome.
As for the Republican presidential candidates, Rasmussen said it’s too early to know who will emerge as the top contenders, but he did suggest that the list will likely not include such names as Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich or Tim Pawlenty.
“Four years ago at this time, we all knew that Hillary Clinton was going to be the Democratic presidential nominee,” Rasmussen said. “When I look at the Republican nomination process, it is the widest open process I can imagine.”