Trumping President Obama: Who Gets Credit for the Economy?

Voters have consistently given President Trump low marks when it comes to his job performance, but more and more voters believe that Trump, rather than former President Obama, is responsible for the current state of the economy, according to the latest Quinnipiac national survey.  Fully 46% say Trump is responsible, while 42% say Obama is.

Whether this is good news or bad news for the president hinges on knowing just how voters rate the state of the economy, and in this case, the data ought to be encouraging for him: 61% of voters say the economy is excellent or good.  Though this is down from a high of 70% last month and 66% in January, these numbers are a significant improvement over the 46% of voters who said the same immediately before Trump assumed office (January 10, 2017).

Likewise, in the January NBC-WSJ survey (for which POS is the Republican partner with Democratic firm, Hart Research Associates), 35% of voters say the economy will get better over the next twelve months, while just 20% say it will get worse.  Fully 43% say it will stay about the same.  Tellingly, among the 35% who say it will get better, nearly two-thirds (65%) say Trump’s new economic policies are the reason; just 6% of these voters believe it will improve because of what President Obama set in motion during his time in office; and 29% say it is due to the normal business cycle improving.

What is perhaps most significant is that just one year ago, in Quinnipiac’s March 2017 national track, two-thirds (67%) of voters believed Obama was responsible for the state of the economy and just 19% said Trump was responsible, even as 55% said it was excellent or good.  The latest data – a whopping fifty-two point swing from March of last year – are further evidence of a trend toward giving Trump more credit for the economy.  The table below shows the trend data on this question from March 2017:

Remarkably, much of the movement has taken place among not only Republican and Independent voters, but also Democrats.  See the table below for the partisan shifts from one year ago.

As the table illustrates, voters of differing partisan stripes have shifted considerably in their views on this important question: Republicans have completely flipped, Independents are now split after being quite lopsided in favor of Obama, and Democratic credit for Trump on the economy has increased by 21 points.  Again, it is important to note that voter attitudes on the state of the economy are crucial for interpreting the “responsibility factor,” but even in March of last year, majorities across the partisan spectrum rated the state of the economy as excellent or good:

Economic satisfaction as measured by NBC-WSJ is currently clocking in at 69%, the highest level since January 2001, when it reached 75%.  The Quinnipiac and NBC-WSJ data on the state of the economy and voters’ economic outlook, respectively, are part and parcel of a general  uptick recorded by NBC-WSJ roughly since Trump’s election (April 2017), when more voters expressed satisfaction than dissatisfaction for the first time since January 2004.

Was the passage of long-awaited and long-promised tax reform in December an inflection point, as well?  Perhaps so.  And, assuming voter sentiments on the state of the economy remain positive, it’s likely that Trump will continue to eclipse Obama on the responsibility/credit question.

Polling for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal is conducted by Republican pollster Bill McInturff and Democratic pollster Fred Yang. This analysis is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of NBC, The Wall Street Journal, or Hart Research Associates.

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