A recent poll shows President Obama’s approval numbers declining as the price of gasoline rises:
Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Increasingly pessimistic views of Obama’s performance on the economy — and on the federal budget deficit — come despite a steadily brightening employment picture and other signs of economic improvement, and they highlight the political sensitivity of rising gas prices.
How do you reconcile these apparently contradictory positions? If the economy is improving, shouldn’t the president’s approval rating be rising right along with it?
The answer is pretty simple. Americans don’t care about the economy. Or, rather, when poll-takers say “the economy” Americans don’t think about the figures being reported by the BLS, the NBER, or the CBO. Let me give some examples:
|When the question on the survey is are you concerned about?||Here’s what people are thinking|
|Unemployment||Do I have a job? Do my neighbor and my brother-in-law have a job?|
|Inflation||Is my paycheck larger than it used to be? Does it go as far? Have you seen my cable bill?|
|Energy||Are gas prices rising? Is my electric bill higher than it used to be?|
|Housing||Do I have a place to live? Have I been foreclosed on? Have my neighbor or my sister-in-law been foreclosed on?|
|The financial system||Am I overdrawn? Why are bankers getting trillion dollar bailouts?|
|The Euro||How ’bout them Cubs?|
|The economy||See above|
Over the period of the next six or seven months I’d put the odds of the economy booming at about 1 in 10, maybe lower. I think there are just too many moving parts with a lot of them going in the wrong direction. The economic circumstances in Europe and China, just to name two. I think the odds of the economy moving along at its present unsatisfactory rate or going into a serious tailspin are about even.
All of that goes to say that the November election in all likelihood, barring some unforeseen catastrophe, regardless of what anybody else tells you, will be very, very close.