October 24, 2006

Perceptions of the Economy: Peaking Just in Time

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:33 am

Just in time for that little exercise in representative government coming up a couple weeks from now, the polling numbers from American Research Group (ARG) on perceptions about the economy are at the highest level I’ve seen in the year or so I have been reviewing them.

The improved perceptions about the economy aren’t rubbing off on George Bush’s overall rating (approve-disapprove is 36%-58%, slightly worse than last month’s 37%-56%), but Bush’s numbers on handling the economy have jumped quite a bit (approve-disapprove is 42%-53%, nine points better than last month’s 33%-61%). Not that 42% is anything to get thrilled about, but it’s the highest in the 12 months listed at the link, and 13 points higher than this year’s bottom in May.

But since Bush is not on the November ballot, I would suggest, as I did last month, that the following results are more important:

  • On the current national economy, the “Getting better” response has tripled in two months, with most of the gain coming from “Getting worse” –
  • On the economy a year from now, the “Better than today” is up in 3 months from flat on its back to virtually the same as “Worse than today” –
  • Then there’s The Stupid Question (“Are we in a recession?”). Of course we’re not, but I’m coming to believe that this question, especially in the month before an election, is a proxy for a liberal v. conservative point of view. The results come pretty close, after allocating the undecideds and considering that some liberals would actually answer the question honestly, to matching the 34-61 split noted at this post (the getting better/getting worse household situation question, which is not shown, also diverged in what I see as a near-election partisan direction):
  • The detailed question about where the economy stands has turned positive in a big way — The three positive categories combined have more than doubled in the past three months:
  • Finally, there has been a migration of 9 points towards the positive responses regarding current household situation in the past two months; now the positives outweigh the negatives by 3-1/2 to 1:

Don’t forget that the monthly ARG polls on the non-presidential approval questions are of people in general, not registered voters or likely voters. I believe that non-voters generally tend to pay less attention to the news, especially news about the economy, and that the economic news they do hear and see is more likely to come from The 527 Media. This should mean that ARG’s results, since they include those non-voters, will typically reflect more economic pessimism than actual voters will have.

The improvements in perception noted make me believe that with certain exceptions (the whole state of Michigan and the southeastern part of Ohio come to mind), the economy has indeed been taken away as something to run against successfully. This news comes just in time for incumbents, and is especially good news for GOP congressional incumbents.


UPDATE: To be clear, this is what ARG says:

Sample Size: 1,100 completed telephone interviews among a random sample of all adults age 18 and older living in telephone households in the continental United States.

Notice that there is no mention of voting status of the 1,100. The survey describes the answers to the president’s overall and economy approval questions as being of “registered voters in the survey,” meaning that there must be unregistered voters in the survey that were excluded from these two questions.


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