Public confidence in the U.S. economy is bolstering President Barack Obama’s re-election chances even as Americans continue to view his stewardship skeptically.
Americans by 43 percent to 33 percent see themselves as better off rather than worse off since Obama took office in January 2009, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 21-24.
Thirty-three percent say they are hopeful about the economy, compared with 21 percent who say they are fearful things will get worse, and 45 percent who are cautious.
“I certainly don’t think it’s where we want to be, but it’s better,” says poll respondent Mica Darley-Emerson, 34, of Camp Dennison, Ohio, who with her husband just bought a new house with a yard and screened porch to raise their 18-month-old daughter. “We leveraged ourselves to the hilt to do it, but we felt optimistic enough about the future to make that investment.”
The easing anxiety hasn’t translated into satisfaction with Obama’s handling of the economy. Americans still disapprove 53 percent to 41 percent, about the same margin as in the last Bloomberg poll, taken in June.
No Magic Wand
“Obviously, the president of the United States doesn’t have a magic wand that he can wave and create 10 million jobs,” says poll respondent Steven Crews, 29, of Long Beach, California, a writer for a video-gaming magazine. “But he’s a leader. He can’t just say the Republicans are being obstinate -- which, of course, they are. You have no excuse when you’re the president.”
As recently as six months ago, Americans were evenly split on whether their lives were better or worse than when Obama took office. Throughout last year, more respondents said they were worse off than said they were better off.
The question has been fundamental to presidential campaigns since Ronald Reagan posed it during a debate with President Jimmy Carter in 1980. “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Reagan asked viewers.
On the campaign trail this year, Republicans argue that middle-income families have lost ground since Obama was elected.
No, I am not better off than I was 4 years ago. And I know of few professionals or blue collar workers who are. If they are better off it’s not from anything the Obama Administration has done but what they did for themselves. I still see the between job ministries in my town full of unemployed looking for help. And there are jobs in Texas, yet there are still many who don't have one. A lot have not seen a raise in pay and even have even had pay taken away over the last 4 years a point of fact for most HP employees still hanging. The cost of living has not gone down either so why would they be better off if their incomes are going down the values of their homes is going down or in the toilet already.