WTOP Beltway Poll: Trust in politicians declines

WASHINGTON — Trust in elected leaders continues to decline and there’s growing pessimism about the direction of the country and the Washington area, according to a new WTOP Beltway Poll conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies.

The percentage of D.C. metro residents who say the U.S. is on the wrong track rose from 63 percent in September to 67 percent in December. Virginia residents are the most pessimistic in the region, with 76 percent saying the country is on the wrong track. That’s up from 69 percent in September.

D.C. residents are the most optimistic, according to the poll. Forty-six percent of District residents say they feel the country is on the wrong track, while 47 percent say they feel the country is heading in the right direction.

As for the direction of the Washington area, residents also are expressing growing concern. Fully 56 percent say the region is on the wrong track, while only 38 percent say it’s heading in the right direction. Maryland residents have the most pessimism about the direction of the region, with 60 percent saying the area is on the wrong track.

The poll also indicates there’s a growing gap between consumer economic confidence and voter political confidence.

While the WTOP Beltway Consumer Economic Confidence Index has increased a bit from September, the Voter Political Confidence Index has dropped, signaling a widening gap between a slightly more optimistic view of the economy and more pessimistic view of people’s confidence in elected officials to address the nation’s problems.

The Consumer Confidence Index in December rose to 59.7, compared to 55.1 in September. But the Voter Confidence Index has slipped from 37.1 in September to 32.8 in December.

Mike Dabadie, president and managing partner of Heart + Mind Strategies, notes that just as we are entering the final weeks of holiday spending, “Congress is once again throwing cold water on consumer attitudes with a game of ‘Potomac chicken.'”

Editor’s note: The D.C. metro phone survey was conducted among 643 adults age 18 or older and between Dec. 5 and Dec. 8, 2011. This included representative samples of 241 in Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Stafford), 300 in Maryland (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Montgomery, Prince Georges) and 102 in the District of Columbia. The margin of error for a sample of this size is 3.8 percent with 95 percent confidence.

Heart+Mind Strategies, a non-partisan market research consultancy based in Reston, Va., conducted the polls.

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WTOP’s Mitchell Miller and Hank Silverberg contributed to this report. Follow Hank and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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