How’s that private sector going again? Nine days ago, Barack Obama insisted it was doing fine, and that Americans were really worried about the dearth of government bureaucrats in their lives. Not that such a statement needs too much rebuttal, but Rasmussen conducted a survey over the weekend to see whether Americans nationwide agree. Unsurprisingly, the answer is an emphatic no:
Most Americans still believe the U.S. economy will be weaker or unchanged in a year’s time. Fewer than half expect the economy to be stronger even five years from now.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 36% of American Adults now think the economy will be stronger in a year. That’s consistent with findings so far this year and more optimistic than Americans were throughout 2011. But 52% don’t share that optimism, including 38% who believe the economy will be weaker in a year’s time and 14% who predict it will be about the same. Thirteen percent (13%) aren’t sure.
Last September, an all-time high of 52% predicted the economy would be weaker in a year.
Note that this is a survey of adults, not likely voters, as is usual for Rasmussen surveys. This sample type usually (but not always) is more sympathetic to left of center positions. And while optimism has increased since last year, it still only encompasses slightly more than a third of American adults — right around the same rough percentage of the Democratic base in this sample, which is 33% (Republicans are 36%, independents 31%). It still (barely) lags those who think the economy will get worse in the next year.
The demographics on this question are interesting, and perhaps a little counter-intuitive. Men are a little more optimistic than the overall (41/36/13), while women are more pessimistic (31/39/15). Democrats and Republicans mirror each other, with 52/23/12 and 25/52/11 respectively, but independents are slightly more pessimistic than the overall average at 31/37/18. That puts 55% of independents in the US as betting that the economy either stays as is or gets worse.
One big red flag for Obama is among adults under 40 years of age, where 46% believe the economy will get worse, higher than the overall average. These are the voters that drove enthusiasm for Obama in 2008, and even more importantly, organizing effort. They may not become Romney voters in 2012, but the enthusiasm for backing a continuation of policies that lead to stagnation and decline will not magically appear in the next five months, unless economic indicators suddenly move upward in a rather dramatic fashion.
And here’s one more big red flag, too. Only 49% of respondents thought it wouldn’t be likely to see a Great Depression in the next five years. Forty percent think it likely to some degree. Those numbers get slightly worse among independents (42/45). Those are not trends that support a vote for the status quo in five months.
With that in mind, Al Hunt argues in Bloomberg today that Team Obama needs an intervention after last week:
Obama probably hoped Penny and his fellow voters in the crucial swing state of Colorado were listening on June 14, when the president gave a major economic speech in Cleveland. For Democrats, June has been the cruelest month; there has been discouraging economic news; the re-election candidate has made mistakes and seems out of his comfort zone. The supposedly superior Obama campaign looks amateurish, and complaints about the operation’s insularity have reached a fever pitch.
Private conversations with a half-dozen of the smartest Democratic political thinkers — all of whom have played at the highest levels of national campaigns, are genuine Obama backers, and almost never are consulted by the campaign — reveal a consensus of advice for the president: Stop trying to tell voters they’re doing better, offer an optimistic sense of how, if re-elected, you would lead America to more prosperous times, and challenge Republicans with specifics.
Hunt offers a suggestion, while being resigned to having it ignored:
A longtime Democratic strategist predicts defeat unless there is some boldness. He offers an idea: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as popular as any American figure, has said she plans to resign after the election. Obama should persuade her to leave her post a month or so early and campaign for him. She might add some electricity and she wouldn’t be likely to commit the same occasional discipline lapses as her husband.
The secretary probably would reject such a suggestion, and team Obama wouldn’t ask. They don’t believe they need help. More than a few Democrats disagree.
I don’t think Hillary Clinton would help Obama all that much by September or October. The die will be cast by that time, with a summer full of jobs reports and economic indicators driving the perception of success and failure in economic policy. They would have been better off taking Bill Clinton’s advice instead of throwing him under the campaign bus this month, and they’ve effectively neutered the one surrogate that actually had a record of economic success on which to base his support for Obama. By October, it will be far too late to stage an intervention, and if the economy continues on its current track, grief counseling might be more in order for those running this campaign.
Update: An hour later, I look at the headline for the 47th time or so and suddenly realize I had written “likely voters.” As the post notes, it’s not a likely-voter survey but a general-population sample. Sorry about that.