Although much has been written about the conservative trend in the 1980 voting, another set of facts indicates that one-term presidencies might be the new rule, rather than the exception.
The underlying skepticism of the American people is perhaps best illustrated in results from the latest ABC News-Harris Survey of 1,199 adults nationwide:
By 66 to 30 percent, better than a 2-to-1 majority is convinced that "the people in Washington, D.C. are out of touch with the rest of the country." Four years ago, when "outsider" Jimmy Carter took office, a comparable 63 to-28 percent majority felt that those in Washington were out of touch.
Because Americans are still convinced that the federal establishment simply isn't in touch with the country, there is a distinct possibility, even a probability, that four years from now feelings will be the same and another change of administration will be sought.
President-elect Ronald Reagan capitalized on these anti-Washington feelings in his closing remarks in the debate against Carter, when he posed the question to his audience: "Ask yourself if you are really better off today than you were four years ago." But unless Reagan can become the first president in modern times to restore faith in government, he stands a good chance of having an opponent stand up in 1984 and ask precisely the same question.
By an overwhelming 84 to 12 percent, a majority is convinced that "special interests get more from the government than the people do." A lesser 78-to-11 percent majority felt that way in 1974 -- at the time of Watergate.
Nor is it going to be easy for Reagan to keep the special-interest groups at bay. For one thing, many of the single issue lobbies campaigned vigorously for his election and already have indicated that they are now entitled to be rewarded by passage of legislation that meets their demands. One example is the "right-to-life" movement, which wants a constitutional amendment passed to ban abortions even though a 62-to-34 percent majority of Americans opposes such a law.
Ironically, major issues such as inflation and unemployment, energy and national security may not be subject to the pressures exerted by many of the single-issue lobbies.
In the energy area, where some very tough decisions have to be made, there is yet another dominant line of thinking that will make it difficult for the new president-elect:
When asked to choose the one course that the country might take to really improve the nation's energy situation, only 17 percent of Americans opt for increasing domestic energy production.