As of yesterday, the conventional wisdom on President Obama’s decline in the polls was that voters are punishing him for high gasoline prices. And while voters believe that the president has significant influence over the price of gas—which, for the record, isn’t correct—it’s also true that they haven’t left Obama on the issue. According to the latest Congressional Connection poll from National Journal and United Technologies, 44 percent of respondents trust Obama “to make the right decisions to help bring down the price of gasoline,” versus 32 percent for Republicans in Congress. This doesn’t disprove the conventional wisdom, but it does put a damper on the narrative that emerged out of yesterday’s polling.
As for the National Journal poll, the obvious upside is that—because of voter ignorance—Obama will benefit if gas prices decline over the next several months. The obvious downside, by contrast, is that voters will actually begin to blame the president if gas prices continue to increase (the more likely outcome, given global events and greater demand). The smart strategy for the administration is to downplay the extent to which the government can affect gas prices, which—incidentally—is what they’re doing with this large infographic on the cost of fuel.