- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

Presidential hopefuls: Beware the funk factor.

The nation is melancholy, and we’re blaming it on politicians. Almost two-thirds of us — 63 percent — agree that “most Americans seem to be in a funk,” according to a new survey of 1,000 adults released by Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.

A funk is, precisely, “a depressed state of mind” or “a slump,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. But this funk has roots. The survey also revealed that 66 percent of the respondents said “politicians who constantly gripe” are behind it all.

“The polling data reflect a growing weariness among the American people with the intense polarization that has beset our nation’s politics,” said Gary Rose, chairman of the university’s department of government and politics.

“When national debate reflects the views of ideological factions, rather than the perspective of the general citizenry, it should come as no surprise that a vast majority of Americans view the political establishment with disdain,” Mr. Rose added.

Robert Butterworth, a Los Angeles-based psychologist, said politicians should heed this poll.

“Seriously. With all the constant bad news, the war and terrorism, it’s no wonder Americans are suffering from a collective funk — a low-grade depression. It’s like a cold,” he said.

“In times of turmoil, people are looking for a Franklin Roosevelt type to pull us out of it. People don’t vote with their brain alone. They vote with their gut and their emotions, too. The candidate who comes along and makes us feel better is going to win,” he said.

Our doldrums may not be new, though.

“We started seeing a ‘funk,’ so to speak, in 2004 with the sharp divisions between red America and blue America,” said Shawnta Walcott, a pollster with Maryland-based Ariel & Ethan LLC, a nonpartisan independent polling firm that is researching what candidate qualities ultimately contribute to a “fit” president.

“Consider that for the first time in 50 years, there’s no incumbent, no vice president running. There’s a lot of contention over which state will hold the first primary. The candidates are battling with each other to try to distinguish themselves — which is OK just as long as their values don’t get obscured in the process,” she said.

“Are the candidates arguing, or clearly articulating what they stand for? This election will rest on whether voters find someone who reflects their own values,” Ms. Walcott added.

Although they’re vexed with politicians, Americans remain optimistic elsewhere, according to the Sacred Heart poll, which was conducted Aug. 27-Sept. 8 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

The survey also found that 98 percent of the respondents were proud of the military, 97 percent were proud to be Americans and 81 percent said the United States is the “most caring and giving nation in the world.” Ninety-seven percent said our freedoms are worth fighting for, while 81 percent said religion is a “force for good” in the world today.

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