It’s pretty well-established that one of the “fundamentals” that damaged Democrats in 2014 was a big lag between improving economic indicators and public perceptions of how the economy was performing.
Well, now the perceptions are catching up, and I discussed the implications today at Washington Monthly:
This new finding from Bloomberg Politics‘ polling (as reported by Margaret Talev) is a pretty big deal, assuming it holds up as a trend:
Americans are becoming more optimistic about the country’s economic prospects by several different measures. President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy is being seen more positively than negatively for the first time in more than five years, 49 percent to 46 percent—his best number in this poll since September 2009.
Here’s the under-side of that optimism, though:[T]he national survey of 1,008 adults, conducted April 6-8, also reveals that about three-fourths of Democrats and independents, along with a majority of Republicans, say the gap is growing between the rich and everyone else—and a majority of women want the government to intervene to shrink it. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
So it may well be that Hillary Clinton’s talk about inequality isn’t just a response to progressives unhappy with Obama’s “centrism,” but a theme we’ll be hearing more of both from her and from Obama himself as the obvious thing for a left-of-center pol to talk about when the overall direction of the economy is looking better. It also probably means that we’ll hear Republicans continue their awkward efforts to suggest shrinking government will unleash upward mobility. All in all, optimism about what a Democratic president is doing plus concerns traditionally associated with Democrats is a pretty good public opinion backdrop for a Democratic non-incumbent.
To put it another way, improving perceptions of the economy amid growing worries about inequality not only strengthens the case for another Democratic presidency but undermines the GOP’s case that it’s “time for a change.”