The Public Feels Better Off Under Obama

It’s obvious that the top line result from the new Bloomberg poll of the presidential race is an outlier. According to most pollsters, this is an even race, with neither candidate at a particular advantage. By contrast, Bloomberg gives Obama a 13-point lead over Romney, who only receives 40-percent support. When you consider that partisans have already chosen sides, and that Obama has lost significant support from white voters, there’s no way that this result is accurate (though it falls within the statistical range).

That said, in addition to polling the presidential race, Bloomberg also asked respondents to describe their economic situation, and it’s there the Obama campaign has reason for optimism. 45 percent of those surveyed say they are better off than at the beginning of 2009 compared with 36 percent who say they are worse off. In March, the last time this poll was conducted, that number was an even split. 28 percent of respondents say that their household income is higher than it was three years ago–compared to 22 percent who say it is lower and 44 percent who say it is the same–and a solid plurality of voters, 49 percent, say they prefer Obama’s economic vision to the one espoused by Mitt Romney.

Insofar that there’s bad news in the poll, it’s that voters express a little more uncertainty about the future. As Bloomberg notes, “32 percent of Americans say they’re hopeful about improvement in the economy, down from 37 percent in March. And 19 percent say they’re fearful, compared with 17 percent three months ago.” The public is primed for further bad news on the economy, which is dangerous for the president’s reelection bid.

It should be said that in raw economic terms, the country is actually better off than it was three years ago. The private sector is steadily creating jobs, despite sluggish growth, and incomes are slowly rising large losses following the Great Recession. The housing market is still a mess, and unemployment is still too high, but neither compares to the near-unraveling of the economy in late 2008 and early 2009.

But the improvement hasn’t been good enough, which is why Obama is in his current situation. He’s vulnerable, but as long as the economic status quo holds, Obama he remains a slight favorite for reelection. But if conditions worsen, he’ll quickly become the underdog.