Date of Original Version



Working Paper

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Abstract or Description

In 1979 President Carter surprised the American public by telling them that they suffered from malaise. Most people shrugged or laughed. The next year the voters decided the problem was not with them but with the government, especially Jimmy Carter's government.

Now malaise is back in a new and more contagious form. This time voters have been telling their governments that they are unhappy, and the governments have been trying to reassure them that their gloom is unwarranted. This time malaise is not limited to the United States. The signs are widespread. In Canada, France, Germany, and Italy votes have increased sharply for splinter parties, dissidents, and in some cases extremists. In the United States, more than 80% of the public tell pollsters that the country is "on the wrong track." Perhaps reflecting the mood of the voters, large numbers of U.S. Congressmen have given up their seats. As they retire, some use the opportunity to comment on the failures of the political system, and its inability to resolve problems. Voters interviewed after the spring primary elections expressed more than the usual dissatisfaction with all of the candidates.