Getting Realistic About The Economy

This weekend on CNN’s State of the Union with John King, Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said she expects the economy to get better by the spring and that she thought this was a “realistic estimate.”

I sure hope she’s right about that, but unfortunately with the unemployment rate stuck at 10{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} and 85,000 more jobs lost in December, things don’t look that great. Additionally, much of what we know – at least from a consumer and voter perspective – would indicate things are going to be tough for quite some time.

Looking at previous recessions we know historically that once the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index falls below 65 that it takes a very long time to recover and get back up above the healthy rating of 85 – usually somewhere in the region of two to four years. In this recession, it’s been just over 20 months since the Index slipped below 65, and December’s rating was still well below 85.


On top of this, when you consider other measures of public sentiment, it is quickly apparent that even if economists declare the recession over in the spring (although didn’t they already do that at the end of the summer last year?), the public won’t necessarily agree. Consider some of the data:

  • Just 17{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of the nation considers the state of the national economy to be “very” or “fairly” good, while 82{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} say it is “fairly” or “very” bad.*
  • Although more people (31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) say the economy is getting better, rather than worse (19{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}), almost half of the country (49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) believes it is staying the same.*
  • Throughout 2009, the majority of Americans told us they think we still have a ways to go before the country’s economic conditions hit the bottom. And, in October last year more than six-in-ten (63{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) Americans said we have a ways to go before we hit bottom on unemployment.**

So, while we all want the economy to recover and the unemployment rate to drop, it may be more realistic to recognize this is going to take a while. Most likely, the economy will not have recovered by the spring and it will continue to be the top issue for voters this year.

Republican candidates running for office in 2010 should keep this in mind and study the success of the 2009 gubernatorial campaigns in New Jersey and Virginia. Governors-elect Christie (NJ) and McDonnell (VA) both took the time to connect with voters on the economy, to understand voters’ hardships, and to offer commonsense solutions to help get each state’s economy back on track.

(Public Opinion Strategies partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.)




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