WASHINGTON - Julie Murray says life is good. Yet gasoline prices are crimping her grocery budget, she can't afford a larger house, and she says President Bush is not focused enough on people's problems at home.
"My husband and I are happy," said Murray, 46, a homemaker from Montpelier, Miss. "We just wish we could buy more into the American dream."
Like Murray, most in the US say they are personally happy and feel in control of their lives and finances, according to an extensive Associated Press-Yahoo! News survey on the mood of voters. Beneath the surface, though, personal and political discontent is bubbling.
There is a widespread unease, shared by 77 percent - that the country has meandered off in the wrong direction. Nearly all Democrats and more than six in 10 Republicans think the country has taken the wrong course. And although almost half express interest and hope in the upcoming elections, a third voice frustration, particularly Republicans.
The AP-Yahoo! News survey will track voters' perspectives during the run-up to next year's election, interviewing more than 2,000 people repeatedly about their lives and views about the country, candidates and issues.
The polling, conducted by Knowledge Networks, will let the AP and Yahoo! track how and why opinions form and change during the campaign.
People are paying attention to the 2008 presidential campaign. Solid majorities think their vote matters and say this wide-open presidential contest is more important than usual.
Stirred in are warning signs for Republican candidates: Democrats seething after nearly seven years under President Bush are happier and more psyched up about this election than Republicans.
More Democrats than Republicans say they are hopeful about the voting, 54 percent to 39 percent, and more of them are interested in it. Republicans are more likely to say the election leaves them frustrated and bored.
"There's no one out there to vote for," Rocky Belcher, 43, a Republican and college professor from Vandalia, Ohio, said about the GOP field. "That means a lot of Republicans may not get out there to vote."
Happy and unhappy people alike say they are likelier to vote for the Democratic nominee, with the unhappy, who are likelier to be lower-income and less educated giving Democrats a bigger, 2-to-1 margin. When it comes to the candidates battling for those nominations, the two front-runners - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and former GOP New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are faring about equally among the happy and unhappy.
More Democrats than Republicans say the 2008 contest is unusually important, and they are likelier to describe themselves as excited, interested and hopeful. By wider margins than Democrats, Republicans say the election makes them feel frustrated and bored.
Democrats and Republicans differ when defining the key issues. Democrats list the economy and health care followed by Iraq, while Republicans name three equally - terrorism, the economy and Iraq.