Does High Unemployment Really Hurt Obama?

We've heard thousands of times that a high unemployment rate helps the candidacy of Governor Romney and a low unemployment rate favors President Obama.  Maybe so.  That certainly makes sense.  On the other hand, it flies in the face of obvious and incontrovertible facts.  For instance, states with high unemployment rates are likely to vote for President Obama, and states with low rates are likely to vote for Governor Romney.  What is going on?

First, the facts.  The average unemployment rate of states solid for Obama is 9.1% compared to an unemployment rate of 6.8% for solid Romney states.  For likely Obama states the rate is 8.7%; likely Romney states have a 6.8% rate.  Combining solid and likely states, we get an unemployment rate of 9.0% for solid or likely Obama states compared to 6.8% for solid or likely Romney.

Table 1 Solid Obama

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

California

55

10.7

Delaware

3

6.7

DC

3

9.1

Hawaii

4

6.4

Illinois

20

8.7

Maryland

10

6.9

Massachusetts

11

6.0

New York

29

8.9

Rhode Island

4

10.9

Vermont

3

4.7

All States

142

9.1

Table 2 Likely Obama

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

Connecticut

7

8.1

Maine

4

7.5

New Jersey

14

9.6

Washington

12

8.3

All States

37

8.7

Table 3 Solid and Likely Obama

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

California

55

10.7

Delaware

3

6.7

DC

3

9.1

Hawaii

4

6.4

Illinois

20

8.7

Maryland

10

6.9

Massachusetts

11

6.0

New York

29

8.9

Rhode Island

4

10.9

Vermont

3

4.7

Connecticutt

7

8.1

Maine

4

7.5

New Jersey

14

9.6

Washington

12

8.3

All States

179

9.0

Table 4 Solid Romney

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

Alabama

9

7.8

Alaska

3

7.3

Arkansas

6

7.2

Idaho

4

7.7

Kansas

6

6.1

Kentucky

8

8.2

Louisiana

8

7.5

Mississippi

6

8.8

Nebraska

5

3.8

Oklahoma

7

4.7

Utah

6

6.0

West Virginia

5

7.0

Wyoming

3

5.4

All States

76

6.8

Table 5 Likely Romney

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

North Dakota

3

2.9

South Dakota

3

4.3

Tennessee

11

8.1

Texas

38

7.0

All States

55

6.8

Table 6 Solid and Likely Romney

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

Alabama

9

7.8

Alaska

3

7.3

Arkansas

6

7.2

Idaho

4

7.7

Kansas

6

6.1

Kentucky

8

8.2

Louisiana

8

7.5

Mississippi

6

8.8

Nebraska

5

3.8

Oklahoma

7

4.7

Utah

6

6.0

West Virginia

5

7.0

Wyoming

3

5.4

North Dakota

3

2.9

South Dakota

3

4.3

Tennessee

11

8.1

Texas

38

7.0

All States

131

6.8

Since states typically contain both areas with high unemployment and areas with low unemployment, state figures underestimate the correlation between Democrats and high unemployment.  If the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported unemployment by congressional district, we would presumably find a close connection between Democrats and unemployment. 

I'm not sure what to make of all this.  On the one hand, increased unemployment seems to favor Republicans.  On the other hand, people in areas with high unemployment favor Democrats.  But you can't increase unemployment without creating areas with high unemployment.

Democrats would probably say that they are champions of the little guy, and he votes for them when he is in trouble.  I would say that people who don't learn from experience vote for Democrats. 

California has a Democratic governor, a Democratic legislature, and a Democratic president.  It also has an economy that's falling apart and no intention of changing its party affiliation.  Results don't matter.  In fact, it seems obvious that the worse the Democrats mismanage the California economy, the more solid the state is for Democrats.  Evidently, people who learn from experience simply leave.

Chicago has an Obama mayor and an Obama president, and it has hundreds of thousands of black people living in squalor who hate Republicans.  Everywhere you find black people living in squalor, you will find Democrats in power.  They might as well be Californians. 

So the issue seems to be, do people care about results, or do they care about something else?  The evidence seems to indicate that large numbers of people do not care about results, or if they do, they care about something else more.

This may bear on the controversy over Rush Limbaugh's hope that Obama fails.  Most people have a hard time believing that their president is actively sabotaging the economy; however, there is a great deal of evidence that Democrats profit from misery.  They must be constantly tempted to bring it about.  They may think that the worse they manage the economy, the better their political fortunes.

Or take a more pointed example.  Almost all blacks vote Democratic, but the higher they rise in income, the more likely they are to switch to Republican.  So Democrats have an interest in keeping blacks poor.

The reason Franklin Roosevelt is the Democrat par excellence is because he showed that it is possible to preside over a stagnant economy without paying a political price, perhaps even benefiting from the stagnation.  That is why Obama may be the one true successor to Roosevelt -- not Johnson, not Clinton, because they were in office when the economy was expanding.

What does this mean for Romney and the rest of us?  That we demand results, results, results.  Results, not excuses.  Results, not blame.  Results, not calumny. 

I guess most Californians are too stupid or too stoned or too star-struck to realize that Obama has talked about a million more roads and bridges than he'll ever build.  They'll sit in traffic jams and gripe about Republicans.  They'll pay tax on the gasoline in their idling engines, and Obama will siphon it off for bike lanes or bullet trains to nowhere, and they'll wonder what Romney has against freeways.  A fool and his money are soon parted.

Anyway, that's what comes to my mind when I hear that Obama's re-election is threatened by the deteriorating economy and I look at the actual numbers, which seem to paint a different picture.  Maybe someone else can explain the discrepancy better than I have.  But right now I see few people trying.

We've heard thousands of times that a high unemployment rate helps the candidacy of Governor Romney and a low unemployment rate favors President Obama.  Maybe so.  That certainly makes sense.  On the other hand, it flies in the face of obvious and incontrovertible facts.  For instance, states with high unemployment rates are likely to vote for President Obama, and states with low rates are likely to vote for Governor Romney.  What is going on?

First, the facts.  The average unemployment rate of states solid for Obama is 9.1% compared to an unemployment rate of 6.8% for solid Romney states.  For likely Obama states the rate is 8.7%; likely Romney states have a 6.8% rate.  Combining solid and likely states, we get an unemployment rate of 9.0% for solid or likely Obama states compared to 6.8% for solid or likely Romney.

Table 1 Solid Obama

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

California

55

10.7

Delaware

3

6.7

DC

3

9.1

Hawaii

4

6.4

Illinois

20

8.7

Maryland

10

6.9

Massachusetts

11

6.0

New York

29

8.9

Rhode Island

4

10.9

Vermont

3

4.7

All States

142

9.1

Table 2 Likely Obama

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

Connecticut

7

8.1

Maine

4

7.5

New Jersey

14

9.6

Washington

12

8.3

All States

37

8.7

Table 3 Solid and Likely Obama

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

California

55

10.7

Delaware

3

6.7

DC

3

9.1

Hawaii

4

6.4

Illinois

20

8.7

Maryland

10

6.9

Massachusetts

11

6.0

New York

29

8.9

Rhode Island

4

10.9

Vermont

3

4.7

Connecticutt

7

8.1

Maine

4

7.5

New Jersey

14

9.6

Washington

12

8.3

All States

179

9.0

Table 4 Solid Romney

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

Alabama

9

7.8

Alaska

3

7.3

Arkansas

6

7.2

Idaho

4

7.7

Kansas

6

6.1

Kentucky

8

8.2

Louisiana

8

7.5

Mississippi

6

8.8

Nebraska

5

3.8

Oklahoma

7

4.7

Utah

6

6.0

West Virginia

5

7.0

Wyoming

3

5.4

All States

76

6.8

Table 5 Likely Romney

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

North Dakota

3

2.9

South Dakota

3

4.3

Tennessee

11

8.1

Texas

38

7.0

All States

55

6.8

Table 6 Solid and Likely Romney

State

Electoral Votes

% Unemployed

Alabama

9

7.8

Alaska

3

7.3

Arkansas

6

7.2

Idaho

4

7.7

Kansas

6

6.1

Kentucky

8

8.2

Louisiana

8

7.5

Mississippi

6

8.8

Nebraska

5

3.8

Oklahoma

7

4.7

Utah

6

6.0

West Virginia

5

7.0

Wyoming

3

5.4

North Dakota

3

2.9

South Dakota

3

4.3

Tennessee

11

8.1

Texas

38

7.0

All States

131

6.8

Since states typically contain both areas with high unemployment and areas with low unemployment, state figures underestimate the correlation between Democrats and high unemployment.  If the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported unemployment by congressional district, we would presumably find a close connection between Democrats and unemployment. 

I'm not sure what to make of all this.  On the one hand, increased unemployment seems to favor Republicans.  On the other hand, people in areas with high unemployment favor Democrats.  But you can't increase unemployment without creating areas with high unemployment.

Democrats would probably say that they are champions of the little guy, and he votes for them when he is in trouble.  I would say that people who don't learn from experience vote for Democrats. 

California has a Democratic governor, a Democratic legislature, and a Democratic president.  It also has an economy that's falling apart and no intention of changing its party affiliation.  Results don't matter.  In fact, it seems obvious that the worse the Democrats mismanage the California economy, the more solid the state is for Democrats.  Evidently, people who learn from experience simply leave.

Chicago has an Obama mayor and an Obama president, and it has hundreds of thousands of black people living in squalor who hate Republicans.  Everywhere you find black people living in squalor, you will find Democrats in power.  They might as well be Californians. 

So the issue seems to be, do people care about results, or do they care about something else?  The evidence seems to indicate that large numbers of people do not care about results, or if they do, they care about something else more.

This may bear on the controversy over Rush Limbaugh's hope that Obama fails.  Most people have a hard time believing that their president is actively sabotaging the economy; however, there is a great deal of evidence that Democrats profit from misery.  They must be constantly tempted to bring it about.  They may think that the worse they manage the economy, the better their political fortunes.

Or take a more pointed example.  Almost all blacks vote Democratic, but the higher they rise in income, the more likely they are to switch to Republican.  So Democrats have an interest in keeping blacks poor.

The reason Franklin Roosevelt is the Democrat par excellence is because he showed that it is possible to preside over a stagnant economy without paying a political price, perhaps even benefiting from the stagnation.  That is why Obama may be the one true successor to Roosevelt -- not Johnson, not Clinton, because they were in office when the economy was expanding.

What does this mean for Romney and the rest of us?  That we demand results, results, results.  Results, not excuses.  Results, not blame.  Results, not calumny. 

I guess most Californians are too stupid or too stoned or too star-struck to realize that Obama has talked about a million more roads and bridges than he'll ever build.  They'll sit in traffic jams and gripe about Republicans.  They'll pay tax on the gasoline in their idling engines, and Obama will siphon it off for bike lanes or bullet trains to nowhere, and they'll wonder what Romney has against freeways.  A fool and his money are soon parted.

Anyway, that's what comes to my mind when I hear that Obama's re-election is threatened by the deteriorating economy and I look at the actual numbers, which seem to paint a different picture.  Maybe someone else can explain the discrepancy better than I have.  But right now I see few people trying.