I’ve never been much of a fan of New Year’s — either as a holiday or as a springboard for changing past behavior. But I know I’m in the minority.
Gym memberships typically surge in January. Attendance at weekly Weight Watchers meetings turn into standing room-only affairs. And I would guess liquor store sales fall like most moods do in the aftermath of the holiday high.
So it’s probably a bad time of year to conduct any kind of poll, survey or study about the mood of just about anyone, let alone disgruntled voters.
But a few people did. And two stand out on this bright, cold dawn of a new year. I’ll tackle one today and the other tomorrow.
The Associated Poll-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research asked Americans, in short, to assess the state of our democracy. A whopping 70 percent of them admitted to a lack of faith in the government’s ability — or maybe willingness — “to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014.”
Only one respondent in 20 said things were fine and no changes should be made. (The only surprise here is that they could find that many people who’d actually say that.)
And despite all the headlines over the last year — or maybe because of them — most people still put health care reform at the top of their changes wish list.
This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for Republicans on the outside of the White House (and Senate) looking in. Voters agree with you when it comes to the federal government. They get it. It simply can’t do a better job than state and local government. This puts them in a great position.
However, the hurdle that remains is the yawning gap of alternative solutions the GOP has offered. And the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is an excellent test case Republicans should take to heart. Americans aren’t happy with it, and for good reason.
But reforming our system of health care — whether it's delivery or funding — remains a top priority for voters. (Jobs and the economy ranked, second and third, respectively.) The private sector hasn’t been able to address it adequately or we wouldn’t be in the mess to begin with. And the federal government’s latest approach is both uneven and ham-handed. So they need to hear more than more complaints.
Going back to “the way it was” is no longer an option. So a winning strategy would be to find another way. Propose a way to “fix” PPACA that makes sense for both individuals and businesses.
But what’s equally important for both politicians and those of us in the media to keep in mind are the things voters either don’t want the feds to mess with or simply don’t care as much about. Politicians love to talk about abortion. Voters don’t care as much as they do. The media loves headline about same-sex marriage or gay rights. The public shrugs their collective shoulders. And while everyone “appears” to be up in arms about domestic spying, again, voters could give a damn. Less than 3 percent of those polled listed any of these as priorities.
For as much as we lament our pop culture, out-of-touch electorate, maybe it's the politicians and reporters who are the ones who are really out of touch.