Dec 10, 2013 - By David Lightman, McClatchy Washington BureauWASHINGTON -- The American public is unusually pessimistic about the direction of the country and increasingly fed up with Washington gridlock, a sour mood reflected in the worst disapproval ratings for President Barack Obama since he took office nearly five years ago.
People give elected officials unusually low grades -- 31 percent rated them "D" and 38 percent gave them an "F," according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
"The lack of confidence in Washington to right itself is showing up," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York.
Obama's disapproval rating climbed to 53 percent -- the worst in 29 polls since he took office in January 2009 -- while 43 percent approved of his job performance. The disapproval number was up sharply from the 47 percent reading in September and tops the previous high of 52 percent in September 2011.
Obama retained strong support among Democrats -- 77-18 percent approval -- and disdain from Republicans -- 90-8 percent disapproval. Independents disapproved 56 percent to 41 percent.
Obama's personal ratings were also down. By 52 percent to 46 percent, people had an unfavorable impression of him, the first time since November 2011 the negative number was higher. The unfavorable number was also the worst he has endured.
Obama in recent weeks has been battered by turmoil over his health care program. The highly touted website where people could sign up for coverage proved to be a dysfunctional embarrassment, and Obama had to backtrack from his assertion that people could keep their plans if they wanted.
Congress fared even worse. By 74 percent to 22 percent, voters disapprove of the Republicans' performance, the highest since the question was first asked in April 2011. Republicans control the House of Representatives and 45 of the Senate's 100 seats.
People soured on Democrats, too. Sixty-four percent disapproved of congressional Democrats, who control the Senate. Both Republican and Democratic disapproval numbers were up sharply from the last poll in July.
The numbers show that "the unsures have cast their vote with the negatives," Miringoff said.
The key reason for the glum ratings is the economy. Though indicators suggest a healthy rebound, people aren't feeling it. Instead, said Miringoff, the two Washington stories that have dominated headlines in recent months were the 16-day October government shutdown and the health care chaos.
That helped create pessimism that found two-thirds seeing things going in the wrong direction, while 30 percent felt matters were heading in the right direction.
Democrats were more optimistic, with the right-wrong direction split 57 percent to 40 percent. Republicans overwhelmingly saw the country moving the wrong way -- 95 percent to 4 percent -- and independents saw matters heading in the wrong direction, 69 percent to 26 percent.
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