Last year ended with lower energy prices and higher economic growth, and consumer confidence was on the rise.  The Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index hit 98.1 this January, its highest mark since January 2004.

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But the Obama economy is the Michael Corleone Godfather: Part III recession:  Just when you thought you were out, it pulls you back in.

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Consumer confidence has dropped from January’s post-recession high water mark to a disappointing 90.7.

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Once again, every attempt to get out of the recession has stalled—and consumers are noticing.  As Richard Curtin, the chief economist for the Surveys of Consumers, which publishes the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, noted on May 15,

“Confidence fell in early May as consumers became increasingly convinced that there would be no quick and robust rebound following the dismal 1st quarter…This was not the first time in recent years consumers have abandoned expectations for a faster recovery.”

Toward the beginning of the year, it was looking as though positive economic news was serving to buttress President Obama’s job approval numbers.  After hovering around 42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in the Real Clear Politics job approval average for most of 2014, January saw a jump to 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}.  In January, we speculated if the economy continued to stabilize at this level, the President’s job approval could rise further.  However, with economic confidence once again dropping, the President will be lucky to sustain his current approval numbers.

The economy will likely be the most important factor in Obama’s job approval, and Obama’s job approval could be the single most important factor to the Democrats’ electoral prospects in 2016.  The New York Times predicts that with a job approval rating of January’s 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} next Election Day, the Democrats would only have a better than one-in-three chance of retaining the White House.  A drop in approval of five points would sink their chances to worse than one-in-four.

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It is hard to miss the public’s signal about their economic pessimism today compared to January.  We will have to wait six months to a year to see if confidence increases again, stabilizes, or continues to fall.  But if the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index continues to drop, remember, it’s a statistical message:  It means the chances of Hillary Clinton becoming President will end up “sleeping with the fishes.”

Public Opinion Strategies