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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Will the Economy Save Bush (June Edition Supplement)

I gave my basic views on this question a few days ago. But I couldn’t resist calling attention to this well-researched front-page article, “Economy Provides No Boost to Bush“, in The Washington Post. Here’s an excerpt from the article, starting with some salient data that I really wish the media would keep in mind when they write about this issue:
Bush is not the first president to suffer from a disconnect between objective economic indicators and voter perceptions on the economy. The economy began growing steadily in March 1991, when President George H.W. Bush registered a 49 percent approval rating on his handling of the economy. But by July of 1992, those approval ratings had slid to an abysmal 25 percent, presaging his electoral defeat three months later.
By October 1994, economic growth had climbed to a healthy 4 percent, and unemployment had slid from 7.5 percent in 1992 to 6.1 percent. Yet President Bill Clinton’s economic job approval ratings were stuck at 43 percent, with 52 percent disapproving. The GOP swept into power on Capitol Hill the next month. It was not until June 1996, more than five years into the longest peacetime economic expansion in history, that Clinton’s approval ratings on the economy turned solidly positive.
“Americans are a show-me people,” said Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion expert at the American Enterprise Institute. “They need to be shown that things have actually been changed, and I think in an economic recovery, this means seeing the guy down the street getting his job back rather than good jobs numbers.”
For President Bush, the disconnect has been far more pronounced. Over the course of this year, according to Gallup polling, disapproval of Bush’s handling of the economy has risen in lock step with the economy’s performance, from 43 percent in early January to 58 percent. “It may be hard to evince positive responses to anything we ask them,” conceded Frank Newport, Gallup’s polling director.
For Republicans, frustration is beginning to show. Last week, when the Labor Department announced that an additional 248,000 jobs had been created in May, House Ways and Means Committee Republicans e-mailed reporters, blaring, “It’s a Booming Economy, Stupid.”
But John R. Zaller, a political scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, suggested that voters may not be stupid. They just may have considerably sharper antennae than economists.
In the fall of 2000, when most economic indicators continued to surge, anxiety among voters began to take a toll on Democrat Al Gore’s White House bid, Zaller said. That anxiety proved to be prescient: By the spring of 2001, the economy had slipped into recession.
This go-round, jobs are coming back, but Americans may sense that those jobs are not of the same quality as the work that was lost, Newport said. Any good economic news is being tempered by high gasoline prices, and a generally sour mood has made voters skeptical.

One comment on “Will the Economy Save Bush (June Edition Supplement)

  1. bakho on

    The column is perhaps the worst piece ever written by Weisman.
    Unemployment is up overall. The current job numbers just mean unemployment is not getting worse. It is not yet getting better. 17% unemployment among teenagers. Think of all those unhappy parents yelling at their lazy surly teens for loafing all day and staying out all night. Think how much happier they would be if teen unemployment were 5% or less.
    We don’t look at economic numbers when we vote. We have been out of recession since 2001. But there have been no jobs. We go to find a job or our relatives go to find a job. If the jobs are not there we get pissed. The jobs have not been there. The jobs are still not there. No jobs?, we vote the bums out.
    The flaw in the article is the assumption that voters pay attention to the economy. WRONG. Voters pay attention to jobs. If Bush had any sense, he would have had a jobs program in place by now. However, that does not fit with his tax cuts, screw the poor philosophy. No amount of spin will convince someone with no job that the economy is good. Anyone who writes about a disconnect between a “good economy” and voter satisfaction is looking at the wrong economic statistic. Voters vote on Jobs. Without a job in the USA you have nothing, no benefits, no health care, no pocket money and no respect. Jobs would save Bush, but Bush screwed up his chance to do something about it, the same way he screwed every business he ever ran into the ground.


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