A Gallup poll this week showed a surge in economic confidence following the Democratic National Convention (DNC). The index rose 11 points from the following week, to -18. That is the highest it has grown since before the Great Recession, in January 2008.
Fallout from enthusiastic DNC?
But could that spike merely be residual enthusiasm following a rousing convention? Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said:
“There has clearly been a burst of many kinds of enthusiasm in the immediate wake of the DNC. Everything depends on if this is like a flashbulb that goes off — a burst of light that blinds you and then it gets back to normal — or whether it has, in an enduring sense, changed Americans’ perceptions of the economy.”
In spite of its sluggish pace, however, the economy is improving. That fact is becoming clearer by the day. Thousands of jobs are being added each month. Sadly, they are not being added at a sufficient rate to significantly lower unemployment. But growth is still growth.
In January of 2008, the last time economic confidence was as high, and a year before President Obama took office, the nation added only 18,000 jobs. That is practically zero growth. Last month, even though the jobs report was one of the weakest in months, it showed a job growth of 141,000. That is a massive, verifiable and undeniable improvement.
The question posed at the Republican National Convention, a week before the DNC, was “are you better off than you were four years ago?” These numbers illustrate pretty clearly that, as a nation, we most definitely are.
The truth will out
The polls are also starting to tip more sharply in Obama’s favor. Perhaps, as the election looms closer and closer, the facts are simply starting to weigh more heavily than rhetoric for the American voter. Perhaps reality is setting in.
Mitt Romney’s campaign endlessly repeats the refrain that it will win on economic policy. Yet when the candidate or his team are cornered about the specifics of that policy, it switches gears to reiterate its stance on “family values,” or to remind the Religious Right that the Lord is still very much part of the platform.
Could it be that the Romney Campaign really can’t deny with credibility anymore that the economy is improving? And perhaps it also knows that if it gets specific about economic policy it will sound like the same old hat that it is: Cut taxes for the rich and cut entitlements to the poor.
Perhaps people are realizing, with greater clarity, just how important this election is — and how very differently this nation will be run — depending on which side wins.
‘Reality definitely matters’
UCLA political science professor Lynn Vavreck said that, in the final analysis, facts are more important than impressions or rhetoric:
“Historically speaking, one of the most important fundamental factors in predicting incumbent party reelection is the economy. But the relationship and the robustness of this isn’t based on people’s opinions. … Reality definitely matters, and in this particular case, reality is good enough. Incumbent presidents in growing economies, even in slow-going economies, are hard to beat.”