There is a lot of uncertainty in politics. But this much is clear: for the past 20 years, Americans have taken a consistently pessimistic view of the direction of the country.

Six in 10 Americans say they think things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Just 36 percent say things are headed in the right direction.

The findings are remarkably consistent with the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in which 61 percent say the country is off on the wrong track.

The pessimism that has seized the nation is not a new development. For the overwhelming majority of the the past 20 years, most Americans have expressed the belief that the country is on the wrong track. The main exception? The late 1990s.

It wasn't always this way. Trust in government was higher in the 1960s and 1970s. These days, increasing partisanship seems to be an obvious culprit. With the two parties as polarized as ever, a substantial portion of the public will necessarily be unhappy when the opposing party is is power. Also, while the nation's economy is on the rebound, it has not fully recovered.

And to top it off, confidence in government leaders is bad. More than eight in 10 Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, according to the NBC/WSJ poll. And President Obama's approval rating clocks in at the lowest level since the summer of 2011.

Like any election cycle, many candidates will promise a new way forward during the next 16 months. But what's been clear the last two decades is that regardless of who is in power, Americans won't like what they see in the path forward.

And for now at least, there are no signs that is going to change.


Anthony Weiner leads in the latest poll of the New York City mayoral race. But the poll overlapped for only a day with the revelation that Weiner exchanged lewd messages online even after he resigned from Congress.

A plan to defund the NSA's phone record surveillance program was defeated in the House.

For the record, Eliot Spitzer says he has not solicited prostitutes since his 2008 downfall as governor.

Businessman David Perdue is the Georgia Senate race's latest entrant. He is the cousin of former governor Sonny Perdue.

George H.W. Bush shaved his head in solidarity with a young leukemia patient.

Embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) will kick off his reelection campaign Aug. 7.

The Senate passed a plan to lower student loan rates.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) receives high marks, a new Field poll shows.

Republican Matt Bevin, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's primary opponent, has spent $29,000 so far to air his opening TV ad.

White House photographer Pete Souza now has an Instagram account.


"Huma Abedin steps into high-profile role as Anthony Weiner’s chief defender" -- Karen Tumulty and Jason Horowitz, Washington Post

Scott Clement contributed to this post. Clement is a survey research analyst with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. Capital Insight pollster Jon Cohen contributed to this report.