In 1980, Ronald Reagan framed the presidential race by asking voters whether they were better off than four years earlier.  Ever since, that has become a gold-standard question for pollsters — even when they disagree with the results.  That seems to be the case with the latest Bloomberg poll, which finds a majority saying that their personal situation is worse than two years ago while Bloomberg tries spinning it as ignorance:

More than 50 percent of Americans say they are worse off now than they were two years ago when President Barack Obama took office, and two-thirds believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.

The survey, conducted Dec. 4-7, finds that 51 percent of respondents think their situation has deteriorated, compared with 35 percent who say they’re doing better. The balance isn’t sure. Americans have grown more downbeat about the country’s future in just the last couple of months, the poll shows. The pessimism cuts across political parties and age groups, and is common to both sexes. …

Sixty-six percent say the nation is headed in the wrong direction. That’s up from 62 percent who felt that way in an October poll and is the worst reading since the Bloomberg National Poll began in September 2009.

Towards the end, Bloomberg trots out the “Obama inherited an economy in deep crisis” line, as well as noting the rebound of the stock market, with the S&P up 50% since Obama took office.  The DJIA was right at 8000 when Obama took office; it’s now above 11,300, which is about 40% higher.  Both increases reflect a rebound in valuation after the crisis passed — mainly through the TARP interventions that took place before Obama took office.  Some of the rebound, though, reflects the weaker dollar that resulted from massive borrowing in the Obama administration as well as TARP before it, and the nature of the crisis itself.

Bloomberg also notes that Reagan’s post-midterm results were worse on the same question, which the press reported with glee at the time.  They saw it as a petard-hoisting moment, and they would have been right — had Reagan not laid the groundwork for an end to the stagflation of the 1970s and the beginning of the greatest economic expansion in modern American history.  By the end of 1982, most of the stagflation poison had been worked out of the system, and Reagan’s pro-growth policies had already begun to spark real growth unhindered by inflation.  In 2010, even the Fed says that we’re years away from any significant net job creation.

This time, most people seem to realize that Obama hasn’t made things any better, and in fact has made them worse, based on their own experience.  That won’t change with just a little hope & change rhetoric, and if it takes 4-5 years before things start to improve on employment under current economic policies, Obama won’t be in office to see it.

Note: Bloomberg supposedly offers the “methodology” of the poll, but it includes no data on the sample.  Bloomberg’s report references how these trends cut across gender and party lines, but its data offers none of the evidence for it.  I’d like to see the composition of the sample on party affiliation, gender, and region.

Tags: Barack Obama