ANALYSIS

Obama’s voter disconnect

Posted Sept. 20, 2011, at 4:08 a.m.

Okay, we now have a fourth national poll revealing this striking disconnect: Americans strongly disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the economy and are deeply pessimistic that it will get any better — even as they solidly approve of the actual fiscal policies the president is championing.

The new New York Times poll finds that Obama’s numbers on the economy are awful. Only 34 percent approve of his handling of the economy. Only 40 percent approve of his handling of jobs. Seventy-two percent think the country’s on the wrong track. A plurality thinks we’re heading into another recession.

But the poll also finds that Obama’s new jobs plan and the provisions within it have clear public support:

  • A plurality is very or somewhat confident that the American Jobs Act will improve the economy and create jobs, 48-47 percent.
  • A solid majority, 56-30, favors significantly cutting payroll taxes for working Americans.
  • A majority, 52-40, favors federal aid to state governments to avert layoffs of public employees.
  • A huge majority, 80-16, favors spending money on the nation’s infrastructure to try to create jobs.
  • A big majority, 71, favors reducing the deficit through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts; a meager 21 percent favors only spending cuts.
  • A solid majority, 56-37, favors reducing the deficit with tax increases on households earning $250,000 a year or more.
  • A solid majority, 56-29, thinks creating jobs should be prioritized over cutting spending.

This same dynamic turned up in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, the National Journal poll and the CNN poll this month. Can we call this a pattern yet?

The perverse conclusion from all this: Republicans benefit from blocking policies Americans support. As long as the economy remains abysmal, the public is likely to strongly disapprove of Obama’s performance, even if Republicans are blocking ideas Americans think will reduce unemployment.

Is there a way out of this trap? Perhaps. The disconnect between disapproval of Obama and support for his policies suggests the public is still willing at least to listen to his jobs prescriptions. So there’s still an opportunity for Obama to win this fight, by getting some actual policies passed — or by driving home who’s responsible for government paralysis in the face of the crisis.

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