Harris Alienation Index Jumps Up Considerably to a Level Not Seen Since the Clinton Years

Largest single jump in number of Americans who say people running the country don't care about them

Sep 13, 2011, 06:04 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A new Harris Poll finds that the level of alienation among Americans has jumped up 11 points in one year, one of the highest single year movements ever. The last time the Index jumped by this much was from 1972 to 1973 during the Nixon Administration.

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Almost every year since 1966, the Harris Poll has measured how alienated Americans feel and then calculated the Harris Alienation Index based on the results.  The questions measure how much, or how little, people feel their interests are heard and addressed by people with power and influence.  This year the Harris Alienation Index is at 63, compared to 52 last year, 53 the year before and 58 in 2008 when George W. Bush was still president. The last time the Alienation Index was in the 60s was during Bill Clinton's administration.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 1,956 adults surveyed by telephone and online between August 8 and 15, 2011 by Harris Interactive.  This is the first time this survey has been conducted both by telephone and online.

The Index is based on replies to five questions, many of which show major changes since last year.

  • 73% of all adults believe the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, compared to 68% last year;
  • 73% believe that the people running the country don't really care what happens to you, compared to 50% in 2010, an increase of 23%;
  • 66% believe that what you think doesn't count very much anymore, compared to 52% last year, an increase of 14%;
  • 63% believe that most people in power try to take advantage of people like you compared to 53% last year, an increase of 10%; and,
  • 41% believe that they are left out of things going on around them, compared to 37% last year.

In addition, 87% feel that the people in Washington are out of touch with the rest of the country, compared to 70% last year, an increase of 17%.  However, this question is not used in the calculation of the Alienation Index, because it was not asked before 1992.

So what?

Trying to determine what moves this Alienation Index is always something interesting for us speculate about each year. This year, the large movement suggests something that we've seen undercurrents of for the past few months. As President Obama's and Congress' approval ratings continue to drop, as fear grows about heading into a second, or double dip, recession and as more and more Americans believe the direction of the United States is heading in the wrong direction, this anger needs to be directed some place. And, it seems Americans have looked at an entire group of people—those in Washington and those running the country—and found they are worthy of the blame.

In the past, we've seen that changes in the Index are not, primarily, driven by the economy and the level of unemployment.  For the past two years, the Index was lower (i.e. fewer people felt alienated) than it was when the economy was booming in the 1990s. But, if we go back to the last time the Index jumped this much, and what was happening then – 1972-1973 and Watergate – we see what may cause the American people the most concern, the hubris of politicians and the fact they just don't care about what happens to the voters. Come next November, we'll see what might happen because of this sense of alienation.

TABLE 1

ALIENATION INDEX – TREND SINCE 1966

The Harris Interactive Alienation Index is calculated by taking an average (mean) of those who agree with the first five statements (see Table 3)


YEAR

PRESIDENT

INDEX

2011

Obama

63

2010

Obama

52

2009

Obama

53

2008

G. W. Bush

58

2007

G. W. Bush

56

2006

G. W. Bush

54

2005

G. W. Bush

55

2004

G. W. Bush

50

2003

G. W. Bush

54

2002

G. W. Bush

52

2001

G. W. Bush

47

2000

Clinton

55

1999

Clinton

62

1998

Clinton

56

1997

Clinton

62

1996

Clinton

62

1995

Clinton

67

1994

Clinton

65

1993

Clinton

65

1992

G. H. W. Bush

65

1991

G. H. W. Bush

66

1990

G. H. W. Bush

61

1989

G. H. W. Bush

58

1988

Reagan

54

1987

Reagan

55

1986

Reagan

60

1985

Reagan

56

1984

Reagan

55

1983

Reagan

62

1982

Reagan

56

1978

Carter

51

1977

Carter

59

1976

Ford

57

1974

Nixon

59

1973

Nixon

55

1972

Nixon

44

1971

Nixon

40

1969

Nixon

36

1968

Johnson

36

1966

Johnson

29




The Alienation questions were not asked in 1967, 1970, 1975, 1979, 1980 and 1981.

TABLE 2

ALIENATION INDEX UNDER EIGHT PRESIDENTS


President

Years With Data

High

Low

Average

Barack Obama

3

63 (2011)

52 (2010)

56

George W. Bush

8

58 (2008)

47 (2001)

53

Bill Clinton

8

67 (1995)

55 (2000)

62

George H. W. Bush

4

66 (1991)

58 (1989)

62

Ronald Reagan

7

62 (1983)

54 (1988)

57

Jimmy Carter

2

59 (1977)

51 (1978)

55

Gerald Ford

1

57 (1976)

57 (1976)

57

Richard Nixon

5

59 (1974)

36 (1969)

47

Lyndon Johnson

2

36 (1968)

29 (1966)

32




TABLE 3

ALIENATION INDEX: DECADE AVERAGES (MEAN)


The 1960s

34

The 1970s

52

The 1980s

57

The 1990s

63

The 2000s

53

The 2010s (so far)

63




TABLE 4

ALIENATION – INDIVIDUAL QUESTION TREND

"Now I want to read you some things some people have told us they have felt from time to time. Do you tend to feel or not feel (READ LIST)?"

Those saying "Yes, feel this way"



1972

1977

1985

1990

1992

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer

67

77

79

82

83

78

79

76

78

72

74

What you think doesn't count very much anymore

50

61

62

62

62

66

71

65

63

60

62

The people running the country don't really care what happens to you

46

60

57

53

60

63

60

59

57

54

68

Most people with power try to take advantage of people like yourself

43

60

65

64

71

70

72

67

69

58

60

You're left out of things going on around you

25

35

48

44

48

49

51

43

43

33

46

The people in Washington are out of touch with the rest of the country*

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

83

83

81

75

76

76

72






2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer

69

69

72

69

68

75

72

73

The people running the country don't really care what happens to you

53

36

44

46

44

53

53

59

What you think doesn't count very much anymore

56

49

55

56

51

53

52

55

Most people with power try to take advantage of people like yourself

59

48

61

60

53

60

54

57

You're left out of things going on around you

39

33

30

40

34

35

38

36

The people in Washington are out of touch with the rest of the country*

73

51

60

67

67

74

68

75






2008

2009

2010

2011

%

%

%

%

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer

71

66

68

73

The people running the country don't really care what happens to you

62

53

50

73

What you think doesn't count very much anymore

57

56

52

66

Most people with power try to take advantage of people like yourself

59

57

53

63

You're left out of things going on around you

41

35

37

41

The people in Washington are out of touch with the rest of the country*

83

72

70

87




* Not included in the Alienation Index.

Note: Until 2010, these questions were always asked at the end of the year, usually in November or December.

Methodology

The Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone and online, within the United States between August 8 and 15, 2011 among a nationwide cross section of 1,956 adults (aged 18 and over). The interviews conducted by telephone (1019) included a nationwide cross section of adults with landlines in their households.  The interviews conducted online (937) included a nationwide sample who have agreed to take part in Harris Interactive surveys, and who indicated not having a landline (i.e., cell phone only), or using their cell phone for almost all of their calls (cell phone mostly), and thus were included to ensure representation of these groups that are lacking among a traditional RDD telephone sample.  Telephone data only were adjusted to ensure appropriate representation on number of telephone/voice lines and number of adults in the household, and online data only were are adjusted by propensity to be online to correct for attitudinal/behavioral differences between our panel and those who respond via phone.  Finally, for the combined telephone and online data, figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, household income, and phone status (cell phone only, cell phone mostly, dual users, landline mostly, landline only) were adjusted as necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.  Population proportions for demographic variables were acquired from the 2010 Current Population Survey, while phone status proportions were acquired from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J40515

Q605

The Harris Poll® #97, September 13, 2010

By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll, Public Relations and Youth Research, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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SOURCE Harris Interactive



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