Category Archives: Economy

Happy days aren’t here again quite yet

Are you more optimistic about the direction of the country than you were last month? A Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that many Americans are, even as most people think the country is still going the wrong way. “The telephone poll, conducted September 7-10, showed 39 percent of Americans believed the country was moving in the right direction, while a still-high 55 percent believed it was on the wrong track.

“The numbers represented a sizable change from August, when 31 percent of those surveyed thought the country was going in the right direction and 64 percent on the wrong track.”

In a separate poll, Pew Research Center reports that Democrats are feeling a bit better about the economy. Republicans? Eh, not so much. “Just 15% of Democrats say recent economic news is mostly bad, down from 31% a month ago and among the lowest percentages over the last four years. Six-in-ten Republicans (60%) say news about the economy is mostly bad, as do 36% of independents. Opinions among Republicans and independents are largely unchanged from a month ago.”

A convention bounce? Pleased with the direction of the stock market? Ignoring the soft employment numbers? Who knows?

— John Robinson

N.C. supports the Buffett Rule

North Carolinians support the so-called Buffett Rule, which requires households earning $1 million or more a year to pay a minimum of 30% of their income in taxes.

Are you listening Congress?

In the latest Elon University Poll, 61% of respondents said they support the Buffett Rule, which was killed two weeks ago by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

While Mitt Romney might be able to get ground in N.C. by campaigning on the economy, President Obama could make hay by campaigning on the Buffett Rule.

Nationally, a Gallup Poll taken earlier this month found 60% favored the rule.

President Obama’s disapproval ratings

North Carolina residents continue to disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the economy (54%). Given that the economy is by far the most important issue facing the state, the Elon University Poll shows that 49% of North Carolinians disapprove of Obama’s job performance.

The poll was in the field when the president was speaking at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which means that his face was on the front pages of many of the state’s newspapers and leading the news broadcasts. Yet, that exposure, though, didn’t seem to help his approval rating. The number of North Carolina residents who disapproved of his job performance last November was 47%. In February, it was 48%. Given the polling margin of error, his numbers are statistically flat.

Nationally, Fox News polling shows that 51% disapprove of Obama’s job performance; Gallup, 44%; Rasmussen, 53%; and NBC/Wall Street Journal, 46%. Make of that swing what you will. Me, I’d say that the daily horse race polls will go back and forth more than a swing at a crowded playground for several more months.

But in North Carolina, it means that the president shows signs of vulnerability. It’s not happenstance that he gave a major speech on student loans at UNC. He needs to win the youth vote, which he captured in 2008 and which is his to lose in 2012.

Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate among the highest in the nation. Obama will have a hard time getting traction that he’s helped North Carolinians’ pocketbooks, which Mitt Romney clearly knows. The former governor was in Charlotte last week and his message was clear: Obama has failed the state when it comes to the economy. According to ABC News, Romney referred to the Democratic National Convention coming up in September.

Now, what you won’t hear at that convention is that for the last 38 months, unemployment has been above 8 percent, that we’ve had 24 million Americans that are out of work, stopped looking for work, or underemployed,” said Romney. “You won’t hear that since he gave that speech and became president that there have been 50,000 more job losses here in North Carolina, more than twice as many as would fit in that stadium.”

“You will not hear that 400,000 North Carolinians are out of work. You will not hear that 93 percent of the people who lost their jobs during the Obama years have been women,” he continued. “Those are things you will not hear, but as I’m the nominee for our party, I hope, I’m going make sure the people of America hear those things loud and clear.”

For Obama, it is about energizing the base. For Romney, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

— John Robinson

Monday’s trending topics: The money issue

Taxes — Americans are evenly split over whether they think they pay too much in taxes or their tax bill is about right. Not surprisingly, only 3% think  they pay too little. (Warren Buffett may have been on that list.)

“Savings” — Where do you hide your mad money in your house, and why would you tell a pollster? Some did: 27% say the freezer, 19% in the sock drawer and 11% under the mattress.

Finances — Nationally, 52% of likely voters think their personal finances will improve over the next year.

Washington Post/ABC News poll reflects the sentiments of North Carolinians

The Washington Post/ABC News poll released today shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney on women’s issues, international affairs, middle class protection and health care. Obama also is seen as more likable, and he has a huge advantage with female voters.

The national poll results reflect trends the Elon University Poll saw in its two most recent surveys.


Female voters.

Foreign affairs.

And, the Washington Post/ABC News poll results suggest that on the most important issue to Americans — the economy — the GOP has some opportunities because Obama’s support there is weak. Our poll of North Carolina residents indicated the same thing.

Bear in mind, the general election is seven months away — an eternity in politics.

— John Robinson

Monday’s trending topics

Race — A Newsweek/Daily Beast poll found that 72% of whites and 89% of African Americans believe the country is divided by race, but only 19% of whites say that racism is a big problem vs. 60 % of blacks.

Presidential politicsIndependents like President Barack Obama better but feel ideologically closer to Mitt Romney, according to a new poll of a dozen battleground states released Monday. (North Carolina is included in the poll.)

More presidential politicsPresident Barack Obama’s job approval rating averaged 46% in March, up from 45% in January and February, and significantly improved over his term-low 41% monthly averages recorded last summer and fall.

Economy and presidential politics — Voters overwhelmingly trust their own judgment on economic matters more than the judgment of either President Obama or Mitt Romney.

Important issues? After the economy, it’s education

A month ago, we asked North Carolinians “what do you think is the most important issue facing the state of North Carolina?” (It was an open-ended question without prompts. They could answer what they liked.)

Fifty-three percent said the economy.

We asked the same question this week. Fifty-seven percent said the economy. The difference is within the 4.2% margin of error. Not much has changed in the past month, except that gas prices are breaking the $4 per gallon threshold and that’s probably enough to keep most North Carolinians worried. (The state’s unemployment rate dropped from 10.2% to 9.9%, but that was announced today, after the poll was taken.)

The second most frequently mentioned issue was education, at 10%. People are concerned about how their children are educated. We did not test responses on the proposed three-quarters of a cent education tax this month, but we did last month. It has support — 53% to 43%.

— John Robinson


Domestic policy: A lack of confidence

Are North Carolinians confident that any of the men running for president can handle the country’s domestic affairs well?

No, not so much.

President Obama gets the highest marks — 38% — but that’s hardly anything to write home about. Here’s how it breaks down:

                                                     Confident                    Little confidence

Barack Obama                            38%                                     44%

Newt Gingrich                            30%                                     50%

Rick Santorum                            29%                                     44%

Mitt Romney                                28%                                     38%

Ron Paul                                        24%                                      45%

Obama is paying for the condition of the economy. With high-and-still-rising gas prices, people are worried. The president has been “in charge” for three years and people are expecting things to be better. Consequently, Obama must be accountable for that. But the GOP contenders aren’t tracking any better. They haven’t been able to explain to North Carolinians in clear, understandable terms how they would turn things around. 

Opportunities abound for the GOP if they can come to North Carolina and spell out an economic policy that resonates with citizens.

(Much of what I wrote in the post about foreign policy immediately below this one applies here, too.)

— John Robinson

Wednesday’s trending topics

WisconsinWith just one week until the April 3 Wisconsin presidential primary, the Marquette Law School Poll shows Governor Mitt Romney with a 39 percent to 31 percent lead over Senator Rick Santorum, reversing Santorum’s lead in February polls.

Republicans — Sixty-one percent of Republicans think it’s time for Ron Paul to drop out of the presidential race, and 60% think Newt Gingrich should. Related, Gingrich is curtailing campaign stops — he canceled an N.C. stop this week — and is laying off staff.

Economy — Economic issues, including gas prices, the national debt and unemployment, worry Americans the most.

Big news—  The top story last week was the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Twenty-five percent of Americans said they followed that story more closely than the presidential elections (16%) or the economy (15%).

— John Robinson

The importance of gas prices on the election

In the latest Elon University Poll, North Carolinians said that rising gas prices were their biggest worry. And Republican presidential candidates have made gas prices a campaign issue.

This morning, the New York Times reports that it isn’t a deciding issue to voters.

Gas prices influence voters indirectly, because rising prices can slow the pace of growth. But the influence is modest, because spending on oil and its derivatives makes up only a small part of the nation’s economic activity. Gas purchases account for less than 4 percent of household spending. Prices would need to increase by at least 28 percent to lift that share by a single percentage point. So far this year, they have jumped by 15 percent.

“Presidential elections are based on evaluations of presidential performance and on the performance of the economy. You can’t reduce that to one small issue,” said Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University. “Are gas prices part of the equation that people think about? They probably are, but only a small piece.”

— John Robinson