Dem pollster warns that voters will scoff at claims of recovery

posted at 11:00 am on February 24, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama wants to ask for a second term as President on the message that “America is back,” claiming that he has pulled the nation into a path for prosperity and job creation.  That will come as a big surprise to American workers, who have not seen any improvement in their job situation or economic position, warns Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg:

Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg is out with a must-read polling memo this morning, which offers some eye-opening advice to President Obama and his re-election team.  After testing several of the president’s economic messages, he finds the argument that the economy is back on the right track polls miserably – and “produces disastrous results.”

“It is weaker than even the weakest Republican message and is 10 points weaker in intensity than either Republican message,” Greenberg wrote. “A third said this message made them less likely to support Barack Obama. Alarmingly, this message barely receives majority support among self-identified Democrats – and even less support among all other groups.”

The memo reads as a glaring wake-up call to the White House, which has been trumpeting improving economic figures lately.   Greenberg notes that voters are reporting “no improvement” in their job situation since last June, and have experienced reduced wages and benefits and health insurance coverage.  The picture Greenberg’s polling paints is an America public still deeply pessimistic about their future, and skeptical of Obama’s handling of the economy.

Even Democrats scoff at Obama’s claims on job creation, Greenberg warns in his analysis:

One of the President’s weakest operative frameworks highlights recent progress on job creation.  This message is potentially dangerous for Democrats.  During the State of the Union, we watched the dial lines go flat, with even Democrats peaking below 70 when the President highlighted recent jobs numbers.

In post-speech focus groups, respondents explained why this part of the speech did not resonate for them: first, and most importantly, they have not seen these jobs or felt the effects of job creation.  But they are also deeply concerned that these jobs are not permanent, that these new jobs belie much deeper structural problems in the economy, and that the new jobs that have been created are far inferior to the more stable, full-time, well-paying middle class jobs that have been lost over the last decade.  One Democratic-leaning participant said, “Just pouring sugar on the thing to create a few temporary jobs is going to get us no place.” Many told us that these statistics were meaningless because they are still just numbers to them. One Republican-leaning participant was incredulous: “I don’t see the kind of jobs numbers that I hear about from him.”

In other words, Obamanomics and its gimmicky, temporary nature and its short-term distortions in statistics don’t even fool Democrats who are inclined to believe Obama.

The “America is back” claim in Obama’s SOTU speech didn’t actually relate to economics but to foreign policy.  That didn’t matter in Greenberg’s message testing:

Claiming that “America is back” is by far the weakest operative message and produces disastrous results.  It is weaker than even the weakest Republican message and is 10 points weaker in intensity than either Republican message.  Overall, less than a third of all voters said this message makes them more likely to support the President and a third said this message made them less likely to support Barack Obama.  Alarmingly, this message barely receives majority support among self-identified Democrats—and even less support among all other groups.  Less than a quarter of independents say this message would make them more likely to support the President and no independents said that it would make them much more likely to support him.

That creates a conundrum for Obama.  Incumbents have to have a positive reason for a second term in office, especially Presidents.  If he can’t claim to have improved the economy or America’s standing in the world, exactly what basis can he use to ask for another four years?  The only argument Obama is likely to have is that Republican meanies will be so much worse, extreme, etc etc etc — which more or less describes the messaging that Greenberg recommends.

In other words, buckle your seatbelts, because it’s going to be a very bumpy ride.


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