American voters are angry, self-absorbed, worried about moral decline and deeply disenchanted with both major political parties, a new profile of the U.S. electorate reported Tuesday.
Voter discontent with politics-as-usual means a fertile field for independent candidates, the Times Mirror Center for The People and The Press said in its report."The American electorate is angry, self-absorbed and politically unanchored (with) no clear direction in the public's political thinking other than frustration with the current system, and an eager responsiveness to alternative political solutions and appeals," the report said.
The newest group to emerge in the Times Mirror survey of thousands of voters is a post-industrial working class, which is characterized by skepticism, cynicism and underemployment.
"For the first time we see signs that new economic realities are redefining the electorate," the report's author, Andrew Kohut, said in a briefing.
Even though traditional economic indicators have risen during the Clinton administration, President Clinton is not reaping political rewards because life has not really improved for the most disenfran- chised voters, Kohut said.
Another source of discontent is the feeling that the United States is on a path of moral decline, he said. Ten percent of respondents felt this way in interviews this past summer, compared with previous Gallup polls that put this feeling at 1 or 2 percent, according to Kohut.
In such a climate, cultural conservatism is on the rise and is proving a divisive force within the Republican Party, which is also being divided along the lines of social class and social tolerance issues, the report said.
At the same time, the Democratic Party's traditional schism between working-class conservatives, liberals and disadvantaged groups are being underscored by racial issues.
The Democratic Party is also being challenged by the emergence of younger, so-called New Democrats who are more friendly toward business and more conservative on economics.
A 1987 political survey by the same group pointed out the existence of the gender gap - contending that women vote substan- tially differently then men - and the gap remains a factor, the report said.
Another salient finding of the current report was hostility toward the media, especially network television.
Seventy-one percent of respondents thought the press gets in the way of society solving its problems.
The Times Mirror Center, which conducts and publishes surveys for the benefit of the public and the press, is part of the Times Mirror Co, a media and communications company based in Los Angeles.