Polls

01.18.12

Understanding Obama's Poll Numbers

Ten years ago, pollsters began to notice a strange phenomenon.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Democrats and Republicans responded fairly similarly when asked to evaluate the performance of the economy. In prosperous years, both acknowledged the prosperity. In bad years, both acknowledged the difficulty.

In the 1990s, however, this seemingly natural connection between perception and reality began to break down. Even in the very prosperous late 1990s, Democrats rated the performance of the economy significantly better than Republicans. Then after 2002, the partisan perceptions abruptly shifted: Republicans rated the economy better than Democrats.

As far as anybody could tell, there seemed scant real-world basis for this sudden divergence of perceptions.

It seemed hard to avoid the conclusion: partisanship was overwhelming everything, even direct personal experience.

The trauma of the Great Recession snapped us back to reality, at least for a time. But as the economy commenced its weak recovery in the summer of 2009, the past political pattern has reasserted itself...

-More to Come-