It Might Not Be Obama’s Economy, But That’s Not The Right Question To Ask

(This post was written by Glen Bolger and Jim Hobart.)

As the economy remains in turmoil, evidenced by a weakening dollar and unemployment continuing to move toward 10%, the question many Republicans ask is when blame for the poor economy will be shifted from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. However, this is the wrong question for Republicans to be focused on.

The majority of the nation continues to view Obama favorably (66% say they have positive feelings about him in the most recent NBC/WSJ poll) and thus wants him to succeed. They will be very hesitant to “blame” him for anything. As a result, the question Republicans need to be asking is not “why isn’t this his fault yet” but rather, “why aren’t the policies working like he promised they would?” This question is much more effective, because while voters are not ready to blame Obama for anything, they are ready to say his policies are not working.

In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, adults were asked if they thought Obama’s economic program was making the economy better, making it worse, or having no effect. While it would be easy for Democrats to point to the 41% better/22% worse figure as good news, the more important take away from the data is that a significant majority (57%) of adults do not think Obama’s economic program is making the economy better.

As a president elected specifically on a platform of change, people expect Obama to be able to do just that – change things. Nine months into his presidency, a majority of people do not believe his policies have been able to change the economic situation for the better. This is a significant problem for his administration and represents a real opportunity for Republicans. (It’s worth noting that the 57% figure is probably the best that Democrats can hope for, as the WaPo poll was of adults, rather than of likely voters. Adult samples are more Dem than likely voter surveys.)

Continuing to look at the recent Washington Post/ABC poll, respondents were told that many economists said the recession was over. Respondents were then asked if, given their own experience of economic conditions, they thought the recession was over. Fully 82% said they believed the recession was not over, while 16% say that it is. This number is a major problem for Democrats, and a clear call to continue to hold Democrats feet to the fire on the economy, as I advised in my post a few weeks back. Dem claims on the economy, from their vow that the stimulus would keep unemployment around 8% to their assertions late this summer that the recession was drawing to a close, have all proven to be false. Let’s not let voters forget it.

Public Opinion Strategies