Improving economy won't help Dems
Vulnerable Democrats casting about desperately for a boost to their campaigns won't be able to use a slightly improving economy as a lifeline, according to several recent polls.
The fact is, voters don't care about the raw economic numbers - not when their personal financial situation is still bad.
But with just a handful of big economic reports left before Election Day, the economic picture is largely in place. And while the outlook is bright, voters continue to hold a dim view of their own financial prospects.ADVERTISEMENT
“There are still a lot of families playing catch-up,” said Jared Bernstein at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “It’s got to be awfully hard for the typical voter to figure out what Congress had done to help the economy move forward. It’s a lot easier to figure out what they’ve done to screw things up.”
Broadly speaking, the economy has made gains in the last several months. The unemployment rate has held steady or dropped every month for over a year, and new data shows the economy grew this spring at its fastest rate in more than 12 months.
But the good news isn’t resonating with the public.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released earlier this month found 71 percent of people blamed Washington for the economy’s woes, and dissatisfaction mainly fell on incumbents overall, rather than on a particular party.
That poll found roughly half of voters believe the economy is still in a recession, even though the economic decline ended in June 2009.
Similarly, Gallup’s index of economic confidence has remained unchanged for all of 2014. People are actually less confident about the economy now than they were in January, when the unemployment rate was nearly half a percentage point higher.
With just two months to go before the midterm elections, there are just a handful of major economic indicators due before ballots are cast, including a pair of jobs reports.
With so little time left, it appears increasingly unlikely that views will change enough to boost the chances of Democrats, who are trying to escape the gravity of President Obama’s flagging poll numbers.
Voters could care less that Wall Street is setting records and that companies are reporting record profits. They talk with their friends and neighbors and realize that economic conditions are still weak and that they could lose their job at any time. What the polls are talking about is not so much people's belief in the economy recovering, but rather the psychological impact of their worry about their own finances.
There are still many pockets of America in recession, with unemployment in double digits and business activity still depressed. There are fewer of them than a year ago, but they remain as a reminder that a majority of Americans don't think we're out of the woods yet.