87% of Americans unhappy with the state of the country, survey finds

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By Emma Kinery Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Almost 90% of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the state of the country, and their unhappiness is affecting their political decisions four months before the presidential election, a new study from Pew Research Center shows.

Only 17% of Americans of any party say they are “proud” of the U.S. while 71% say they feel angry and 66% fearful. Just 12% of Americans say they are satisfied with the direction of the country, less than half of the 31% who said the same in a study in April; 87% now say they are dissatisfied.

The latest Pew online panel survey, which tracks opinions of the same respondents over time, was conducted June 16-22 — just as the number of coronavirus cases spiked in Sunbelt states and the recession deepened. It has a margin of error of 1.8 percentage points.

This unhappiness is affecting perceptions of President Donald Trump, who is 10 percentage points behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Some 54% of registered voters back Biden and 44% support Trump. The president’s approval rating dropped to 39%, while 59% of Americans disapproved. In the April survey, Trump’s approval was 44%.

Still, a slim majority of Americans say Trump has a better handle on the economy than Biden. Amid a recession, Trump leads Biden by 3 points, 51% to 48%, among voters who said they are very or somewhat confident in the candidate’s ability to make good decisions about economic policy.

Biden, however, leads in every other category. Voters placed more confidence in his ability to handle law enforcement and criminal justice issues, foreign policy, the coronavirus outbreak, race relations and to bring the country closer together. Trump’s lowest mark is on bringing the country together — only 31% of voters express confidence in the president in that area.

The Pew survey’s results are similar to the findings of polls released in the past week that found Biden holding a double-digit lead over Trump. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Wednesday found Biden up 14 points over Trump nationally. A Fox News poll released days earlier found Biden leading by 12 points.

But while Biden has led in every independent public poll released since April, a USA Today poll released Tuesday shows he still suffers from a gap in enthusiasm. Half of Trump supporters say they’re “very excited” to vote for him; only 27% of Biden supporters felt that way.

On personality traits, Biden is viewed by 60% of voters as even-tempered in the Pew survey; only a quarter of voters see Trump that way. Only 7% of voters believe Trump to be “very” even-tempered.

Biden is also viewed by more Americans as being a good role model, honest and as someone who cares about the needs of ordinary people. Trump is seen as more energetic and courageous, though the president only leads Biden by 1 percentage point when it comes to the perception of courage.

The Pew study finds men split in their support with 50% favoring Biden and 48% for Trump. Women favor Biden 57% to 41%. White Americans favor Trump 53% to 45% whereas nearly 90% of Black Americans back Biden. Two-thirds of Hispanics support Biden compared with 32% who back Trump. Voters living in battleground states favored Biden by 6 points, 52% to 46%.

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(Gregory Korte contributed to this report.)
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