President Barack Obama arrives for a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Penn. on Sept. 13, 2016.
Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

Poll: Most Americans see the country on the right track

Updated
Those who see the 2016 cycle as a “change election” point specifically to right-right/wrong-track polls. As we discussed last week, it’s a deeply flawed metric, but many pundits continue to say there’s a broad public appetite for radical change – for proof, they point to the fact that most Americans consistently say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

But sometimes, the wording of a question can produce unexpected results. Take this new CNN poll, for example.
More Americans than at any time in Barack Obama’s presidency now say that things in the United States are going well, a sharp uptick in positive views and the best reviews of the country’s trajectory since January 2007, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll.

Overall, 54% say things in the country today are going well, 46% badly. That’s a reversal from late July when 54% said things were going poorly and 46% said they were positive.
While right-track/wrong-track polling has been common for many years, this poll asked respondents, “How well are things going in the country today – very well, fairly well, pretty badly or very badly?” A combined 54% majority said things are going very well or fairly well.

To be sure, 54% isn’t an overwhelming number, but it is the highest we’ve seen in this poll since before the Great Recession started nine years ago. The number of Americans who believe things are going very well has now reached a decade-long high.

The electoral implications of these attitudes are real.

As we talked about the other day, Donald Trump and his allies are desperate to convince the mainstream that Americans are living in a dystopian nightmare; President Obama is to blame; and the crisis is so severe that voters should embrace radical changes that only a controversial television personality can provide.

There are, however, two key problems with the pitch. First, it’s only proving persuasive with the Republican base: the CNN poll found that most Democrats and independents believe things are going well in the United States right now, but nearly 8 in 10 Republicans believe the opposite. That tilt is not a recipe for election success.

And second, it’s wrong. Obviously there are serious challenges facing the country, but after eight years of President Obama, we have low unemployment, low crime rates, the lowest uninsured rate on record, falling poverty, the highest graduation rates on record, low gas prices, improved international prestige, and a relatively popular president (the CNN poll puts Obama’s approval rating at 55%, which ties a second-term high).

“You should feel more miserable” is a tough sell given the circumstances.



Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Polling

Poll: Most Americans see the country on the right track

Updated