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Americans are feeling more Grinch than Santa this omicron-themed holiday season

Despite Biden in White House, even 41 percent of Democrats say the U.S. is adrift

Polls suggest Americans are not quite in the usual holiday spirit after nearly two years of a pandemic and bitter partisanship.
Polls suggest Americans are not quite in the usual holiday spirit after nearly two years of a pandemic and bitter partisanship. (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — Americans are in an unusually foul mood during what is typically a merry and jolly holiday season, ensconced in tribal politics and living in different pandemic realities.

Despite myriad differences on policy prescriptions and political beliefs, one thing actually is uniting Americans as Christmas and New Year’s approach: worries about the direction of the country and the elected officials leading it.

Just 28.4 percent of Americans see the country headed in the right direction, compared with 62.4 percent who view it as stumbling down the wrong path, according to a RealClearPolitics’ average of seven national polls conducted in November and early December.

Among those surveys, the most recent, by Reuters and Ipsos, found just 24 percent see a right-direction trajectory — with 60 percent reporting the United States is on the wrong one. Two polls conducted last month, an Economist/YouGov survey and a Wall Street Journal poll, both put right track at 27 percent. The former also had a 60 percent wrong path total; the latter found that 63 percent of those surveyed had a pessimistic view of the state of the union.

A deeper dive inside the Reuters-Ipsos survey finds some predictable data, give the blue vs. red canyon that is U.S. politics: Under Democratic President Joe Biden’s watch, 87 percent of Republicans polled reported a wrong-track glide-path. It also shows some daunting numbers for Biden and congressional Democrats heading into the 2022 midterm elections.

Even with a president of their party at the wheel, 41 percent of Democrats are unhappy with where the country is and where they see it headed. (The same percentage reported a perceived correct path.) But the data get worse for the blue team: 61 percent of independents say the country is on a negative course, compared to a stunning 21 percent who are pleased.

Biden won the support of 52 percent of independent voters just one year ago, netting a 10-percentage-point national increase over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s haul with the crucial group four years earlier.

These and other polling data reveal a country that is feeling more “meh” than “merry.” But they also suggest a less-than-love-thy-neighbor holiday spirit.

Seventy-one percent of young Democratic voters told Generation Lab and Axios they would not go on a date with someone who voted for the opposing party’s presidential nominee. And 41 percent of the same group said they would not be friends with someone who voted GOP at the top of the ticket.

In deep-red Gaston County, N.C. — solid Donald Trump country — multiple pickup trucks over the Thanksgiving weekend displayed stickers in their rear windows spelling out “Let’s Go Brandon.” That’s a slogan that has spread like wildfire in conservative circles that means “F— Joe Biden.”

One source, a business consultant granted anonymity to be candid, reported general coronavirus-related ill will and “Unmask Our Children” signs in Western Michigan. Another, an academic in the South also granted anonymity to be frank, reports “everyone here has just turned nasty and mean — everyone.” The anti-mask Michigan parents would have felt at home in Gaston County, where there were few masks in sight — and often, none.

The same mood is reflected in Washington.

Conservative Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado accused progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota of being a backpack-bomb-toting terrorist who is a member of the “jihad squad.” Defending Omar, fellow progressive and squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York used a tweet to accuse House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of being “so desperate to be speaker that he is working with his Ku Klux Klan caucus to look aside & allow violent targeting of woc (women of color) members of Congress.”

Omar later hung up on Boebert after the latter was forced to reach out via telephone, a call that seemed destined to go poorly.

On Saturday, GOP Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky tweeted a photo of himself and his family holding a small arsenal of firearms with this not-so-cheerful message: “Merry Christmas! … ps. Santa, please bring ammo.” Boebert, still eager to prod Democrats after the Omar scuffle, tweeted back at Massie letting him know her family, also pictured with large rifles, “have your six” but “no spare ammo.”

The same day, University of Louisiana at Lafayette students were captured on video spitting on Appalachian State University football support staff and a radio reporter during the Sun Belt Conference championship game, which was played on the Ragin’ Cajuns’ home field. (Full disclosure: The author attended ASU but sends congratulations to UL for its victory.)

Such incidents at sporting events have made clear some folks exited the initial COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions pretty restless and angry. Now, the omicron variant, apparently even more contagious than its viral cousins, is here and the pandemic seems to have no end in sight.

Journalist Brian Karem put it this way in a recent column: “The omicron variant of the virus is the latest rage, scaring millions of people, but many of them still won’t get vaccinated. At this point it is inconceivable that we will vaccinate anywhere near a large enough portion of the world’s population to conquer this virus — at least if the enlightened denizens of dystopian America are any gauge.”

To Karem’s point, a recent Axios piece delivered some sobering news, including a headline that declared people are “shrugging off omicron.” The article summarized a survey that suggested folks are simply over the pandemic, with 28 percent saying they would cancel holiday plans or quarantine for two weeks over omicron fears — even as cases and deaths are up 27 percent and 13 percent over the last 14 days (as of Wednesday morning).

Biden campaigned on moving the country beyond the vitriol of the Barack Obama and Trump presidencies. So far, due to circumstances and his staff’s careful management of the sometimes gaffe-prone president, his public remarks have focused on pleading with — almost begging — more Americans to get vaccinated.

The White House’s attempts to portray Biden as the everyman “Scranton Joe,” with trips to get ice cream or visit with local business owners, have fallen flat — aside from drawing much mocking from Trump, GOP lawmakers and conservative media outlets.

Protesters outside Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn., where Biden visited on Nov. 30, held signs declaring “FJB” and “You Suck” and “Trump Still President” and “STOP THE EXPERIMENT NOW!” — an apparent reference to some conservatives’ skepticism about the jab.

It’s not just Biden: All four congressional leaders have approval ratings around 30 percent or lower, according to RealClearPolitics’ average. Vice President Kamala Harris comes in at 40.2 percent and Trump at 40.8 percent.

No leader gets high marks for their handling of anything amid the feeling of a country adrift. With 11 months to go before the midterms, Americans are feeling more Grinch than Santa Claus.

“One man’s toxic sludge is another man’s potpourri,” the green character said in the 2000 film starring Jim Carrey about the Dr. Seuss-created villain’s attempts to steal Christmas. Carrey’s Grinch was not talking about Americans’ assessments of each other’s political views in 2021, but he could have been.

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