Republican Resurgence on the Economy?

For months voters’ perception of the Republican Party has been in the doldrums, but new data out from Rasmussen Reports suggests the GOP may be coming back into favor with the public.

The data recently released from Rasmussen Reports shows Republicans hold an advantage over Democrats as the party voters most trust to handle on six out of ten issues tested.  This fact alone is good news, but most importantly, on the key issue of the economy, for the first time in two years of tracking, Republicans are viewed as the party to trust by more voters (45%) than the Democrats (39%).

Some of you may be asking “what gives?” Well, for one thing this survey was conducted right after the news that GM would go into bankruptcy and the government would become the major shareholder of the company so that could have had some impact on these results. But, we’ve also seen data over the last few months that suggests voters are not convinced Obama’s economic initiatives are going to fix the economy.

Most recently, a survey conducted in late May by Gallup noted that only 45% of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of federal spending (51% disapprove), and a similar percentage (46%) approve of his handling of the federal budget deficit.

In the April NBC/WSJ* poll a majority of Americans (52%) said President Obama and his administration have been taking on too many other issues instead of having a “clear and sharp focus on the economy” (43%). And, even more concerning for Obama and his Party, we measured a drop in support for the economic stimulus legislation. In February, 44% said the stimulus was a good idea compared to 36% who said it was a bad idea. By April that measure was basically break-even (38% good idea/39% bad idea), and among Independents had dropped from a net five point “good idea” score to a 17 point net “bad idea” score.

Even in March just 31% of Americans said the stimulus package would help the economy a “great deal” or “quite a bit” over the next year, and by a more than two-to-one margin the public told us they were more concerned the federal government would “spend too much money trying to boost the economy and as a result will drive up the federal budget deficit” (61%) than that the government would spend too little and the recession would last longer (29%).

So, given the continued concern the public has expressed, and now the news that we (taxpayers) are now the owners of GM’s debt, it’s perhaps no surprise that voters are beginning to take a renewed look at the Republican Party. Republicans should take note of this shift in public opinion and step up their efforts to communicate their plans for re-building the economy as voters seem willing to listen and re-consider their options. This could be the beginning of a Republican resurgence – and what better place to start than on the most important issue facing the country today.

*NBC/WSJ surveys are conducted by Public Opinion Strategies together with Peter D. Hart Research Associates. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.

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