Americans Don’t Care About the Economy

by Dave Schuler on March 12, 2012

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.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Drew March 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I have only one comment wrt to this post. As a White Sox fan I say screw the Cubs.

PD Shaw March 12, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Nobody will be asking about the Cubs this year.* I suppose that’s the point, though.

* Rebuilding mode; they’ll be asking in a few years.

Dave Schuler March 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm

As the late, much-lamented Stevie Goodman pointed out thirty years ago:

Do they still play the blues in Chicago
When baseball season rolls around
When the snow melts away,
Do the Cubbies still play
In their ivy-covered burial ground
When I was a boy they were my pride and joy
But now they only bring fatigue
To the home of the brave
The land of the free
And the doormat of the National League

steve March 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Screw the Cubs and Sox. Go Phillies!


Janis Gore March 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Or “Don’t go looking for trouble, trouble will find you.”

Janis Gore March 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

They’ve been very, very close before 2000.

Drew March 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm
Drew March 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm

And Reynolds thinks the world of these crazies……

Janis Gore March 12, 2012 at 3:21 pm


What’s your theme?

Icepick March 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm

What’s your theme?

That his crazies are richer than Michael’s crazies, and thus deserve to be in charge.

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