Patterico's Pontifications


Something’s happening here?

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 7:39 am

[Posted by Karl]

I really don’t mean to pick on Jonathan Chait here — he just happens to be representative of many left of center in this instance.  Last Friday, the story was all about Obama’s improved standing in the polls, with Gallup as an outlier (to be dismissed like Rasmussen, as if that makes sense).  Yesterday, he was groping around to explain away bad numbers from the Washington Post/ABC News and New York Times/CBS News polls (both historically have pro-Obama house effects), while highlighting that Obama’s approval number was up at Gallup.  The… flexibility is amusing, but the question of what happened is worthwhile.  There are a number of possible explanations.

Statistical noiseJonathan Bernstein notes this as a factor — and it almost certainly is.  However, Bernstein adds that it’s better to look at the poll averages — and they may tell the same story.  The variation in Obama’s overall approval rating has not varied much outside margin of error recently, but it seemingly has declined slightly over the past three weeks.  The same seems to be true of Obama’s approval on the economy.  And the gap between Obama and Romney has been shrinking over the same period.

Sampling:  As Ed Morrissey noted, this was likely an issue for the WaPo/ABC poll.  After not releasing the party ID for the samples in January and February, this poll disclosed them. The February sample was D+11, while the March sample was D+4, which accounts for much of the results.  However, it is unlikely this was a problem in most polls taken over the past three weeks.

Gas prices:  This was the explanation given in the WaPo news coverage of its poll.  However, as WaPo Wonkbook blogger Brad Plumer noted, the correlation of gas prices and presidential approval is statistically suspect  and perhaps indirect (I have noted the same).  If you want to dig further, it appears that rising gas prices could cost Obama a few points in approval and a point or two in vote share.

The “War on Women”:  Both Allahpundit and Mickey Kaus at least allude to the idea that the media effort to reframe the HHS mandate as a conservative war on contraception has failed and the issue is hurting Obama.  I tend to doubt this, but the issue has received increasing media coverage over the past three weeks.

Good economic news:  Chait floats a theory that I find implausible in one way, but illuminating in another.  Chait, noting that Obama’s campaign to convince voters that “America is back” is a dud, hypothesizes last weekend’s polling reflected that Americans “do not think that it’s morning in America and respond badly to any suggestion that they ought to feel cheerful.”  I tend to doubt last weekend’s polling reflected backlash to happytalk about Friday’s jobs report, because the decline — if the start of a trend — dates back to mid-February.  However, Chait’s piece caused me to look back at the news coverage from mid-February… and it turns out there was a lot of happytalk about the economy (and how it was boosting Obama) then, too.

The question not being addressed is whether Americans’ polled perceptions of the economy are more accurate than those of the establishment media.  I don’t want to overdo this — economic confidence is on the rise.  But job creation may be stagnatingReal disposable income has fallen recently.    Underemployment seems to be rising.  A disproportionate share of the jobs that have been added over the past two years have been what Democrats once dismissed as low-wage “McJobs.”  The official job numbers look good, but everyone from Gallup to Wall Street economists are puzzling over the disconnect between the unemployment and growth statistics.  Are the strong jobs numbers the real story, or the weak growth stats?  The conventional wisdom is that unemployment is a lagging indicator, which suggests we should already have seen better growth statistics.  But if the conventional wisdom was always right, the economy would already seem much better than it is.


47 Responses to “Something’s happening here?”

  1. Ding!

    Karl (6f7ecd)

  2. Chaitred is one of those infinite monkeys on the way to completing Hamlet.

    narciso (bcbb5a)

  3. The ‘funemployment’, ‘jobless recovery’, ‘recovery summer’, etc., memes all failed as the months passed. The ‘economy is back’ is just about cold now too.

    China had a trade deficit last month due to the price of oil, Japan’s SHHTF, Spain and Greece are in depression, … The economic news is all bad except there’s a run up in the market as people are ditching bonds ahead of inflation’s break into a gallop.

    Faber has been pushing stocks poised to survive the RESET for a few months, so some of this move is credible. OTOH a 17% rise in technology stocks is freaking insanity.

    $6 gas for the 4th will kill the recovery deader than Francisco Franco.

    gary gulrud (035984)

  4. Don’t forget ‘complainversation’

    narciso (bcbb5a)

  5. Today euro is crashing, oil flat, bond yields up 7%, stocks flat.

    Commodities are seeing a pull back(oil special case) because of world depression.

    Doom is priced in.

    gary gulrud (035984)

  6. Of all the Journolists, Bernstein at least tries to get a clue, he doesn’t look at the trend, rather than the blip, gas prices are one variable, but they
    have a negative multiplier effect on the economy.

    narciso (bcbb5a)

  7. People are afraid of the future right now. It’s a low level, back of the mind fear, fortunately. But it is there. And, the President, the person that’s supposed to “fix” things, is conjoined to that fear.

    First, I think there is a fear of inflation. Few American’s really understand modern money theory, but they see things like “record gold price”, “oil above $100″, and “high gas prices”. They also see increases in grocery prices at the check-out and other things here and there (like “medium” coffees and sodas being smaller than last year). The price of some things are going up faster than they’ve remembered. It is all adding up toward something to worry about.

    Second, most people know someone that’s been unemployed for 99+ weeks by now. (I know a couple). Immediate anecdote overwhelms any abstract fact for most people. The fear that they’ll be in that same position is there.

    Third, the news reports on the economic recovery aren’t matching people’s intimate observations noted above. This is causing distrust of the media, making people question everything they’re hearing on the news. Any good economic news is instantly distrusted.

    It all adds up to a general…malaise. 99% of the people aren’t panicking, but they’re all expecting the other shoe to drop. President Obama needs to tack into the fear, present a bold plan to fix…The Federal Government Spending Problem…and admit that government borrowing kills the market for all other borrowing. And admit that keeping interest rates artificially low is killing savers and is likely leading to an inflation bubble soon.

    [note: fished from spam filter. –Stashiu]

    Xmas (6d4adf)

  8. I think what is happening, is SSDD. Obama is about to implode. Nothing is getting better, and the cheerleaders arms are getting tired.

    Gus (36e9a7)

  9. I doubt a family exists in America which does not have at least one member long term unemployed or seriously underemployed. There are few families in America which have not been affected by the obscenely rising cost of fuel and groceries. The feeling of freedom and hope that traditional mobility offered (for Americans to go somewhere else and start over) is gone because people cannot sell their existing homes.

    The Obama election machine and its media surrogates can make up stories, twist figures, and create narratives– and if the populace has no way (nor a personal reason) to disprove or question that, then these artificial memes often do “stick”. (e.g.,Obama is very smart and got great grades in school.) But, when the Obamites put forth ridiculous job numbers and recovery pablum that is totally contrary to what people actually live and see every day in their own communities, then you know potential voters are going to call “bs” on it.

    what’s happening here..

    elissa (97540a)

  10. I note that the Fed says that inflation may rise because of increased gasoline prices. Leaving aside the notion of rising prices causing inflation, this just adds to the misery index, which is already up 4 points under Obama.

    I’m pretty sure that “some economists” will shortly be telling us that “moderate” inflation, coupled with “moderate” unemployment is just the new normal.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  11. ‘Unexpectedly’ they don’t mention that QE 1 &2,
    may be responsible for that circumstance.

    narciso (bcbb5a)

  12. one interesting fact to note is that here in the DC area, the recession simply hasn’t been as bad as it has been in other areas. and i think that is important because it means that anyone ensconced here is likely to be a little disconnected from the economic state in the rest of the country.

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  13. “What it is ain’t exactly clear…”

    But liberal policies of Emperor Obama may have something to do with it.

    Painted Jaguar (A sockpuppet) (3d3f72)

  14. Btw, Aaron, it’s Grace Park’s birthday, a detail I found from Bernstein,

    narciso (bcbb5a)

  15. Now how did that last comment end up in moderation? I could understand the one that mentioned a specific pharmaceutical product…but this one’s a head-scratcher.

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  16. ______________________________________________

    but everyone from Gallup to Wall Street economists are puzzling over the disconnect between the unemployment and growth statistics.

    I recall that during several of the years when George W Bush was president that various opinion polls indicated many people thought the country was headed in the wrong direction. Not sure how much of that was due to a period of time (around 2007 or so) when gas prices were rocketing or the public had to grapple with matters like the Iraq war or living in an ominous post-9-ll world.

    I do remember reading one poll and thinking “what’s with all the pessimism?!” That’s because unemployment was relatively low at the time and economic trends that have become almost routine over the past few years weren’t as obvious or didn’t yet exist.

    I think reality has finally caught up with public sentiment.

    Mark (31bbb6)

  17. if you want to find out how obscenely ass-raped our economy is you have to elect a Republican

    that’s the rule

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  18. The gist of it was that persons seeking assistance filing banrupcty are not in short supply in my area.

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  19. LOL– you better watch yo tongue, Sarahw!

    elissa (97540a)

  20. 11- I wish we could disconnect d.c.

    sickofrinos (44de53)

  21. I’m wondering if that last one got through only by virtue of some inverted letters.

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  22. Elissa, apparently I speak spam. :)

    Sarahw (b0e533)

  23. It seems there is no interest to do anything about it,

    narciso (bcbb5a)

  24. Everything starts with me. Consumer confidence, hiring, spending and presidential approval ratings and likelihood of re-election all flow from how I am feeling. If I’m feeling good, everything moves in a positive direction, and vice versa.

    And rising gas prices are one of the things that make me not so happy, I hate driving past a gas station and calculating how much more the next fill up is going to cost. So is (the relatively lightly discussed) rise in health insurance premiums and reduced levels of coverage that are being implemented, as I see my paycheck go down because of the higher premium deduction. My house value continues to stagnate. To the extent I think about them, I’m worried about Iran’s bomb and Europe’s finances. Sure, I hear rumblings that jobs are being added… but as I already have a job that piece of news hasn’t translated into anything concrete that benefits me, it’s not as if I got a raise because the unemployment dipped some fraction of a point. I hear of this so-called ‘GOP war on contraception’, but I don’t follow the news and blogs as much as the media and bloggers like to think I do, so I dismiss all the talk as static in the background.

    And in back of my mind I note that I aren’t hearing Obama coming forward with any real plan to get the economy going. He’s doing a lot of complaining about something or another, but isn’t it his job to actually do something?

    In other words, what is there that makes the likes of me more optimistic about MY future? And if I’m not more optimistic, how can I be more supportive of the job Obama is doing?

    steve (369bc6)

  25. something happening
    here but what it is to chait
    ain’t exactly clear

    Colonel Haiku (e907d0)

  26. hey, Big Zer0 of
    Your Ruinous Fecklessness
    yes!… we’ve had ENOUGH

    Colonel Haiku (e907d0)

  27. leon panetta
    just thank your lucky stars you
    dodged a bomb attack?

    Colonel Haiku (e907d0)

  28. you can’t say things are improving when orders for durable goods dropped off to their worst level in 3 years, when fuel prices are sky rocketing, when business does not have enough faith or trust in the administration’s actions or policies to begin hiring in significant numbers. You add rising costs for fuel and that further corrodes things.

    High fuel prices push more people toward food stamps and federal assistance, which is what Obama wants. More and more people are beginning to understand the perfidy.

    Colonel Haiku (e907d0)

  29. Chris Rock hasn’t been funny for a long, long time… but now he’s funny… in da head!

    sick fook.

    Colonel Haiku (e907d0)

  30. Karl – It’s obvious that the American public in general is too stupid to understand the significant successes of the Obama Administration and the all the president has to do to change his standing with the public is to improve his messaging styrategy, e.g., lie more brazenly.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  31. Things are bad in NorCal. I was b*tching about the 6 cent jump at the pump in two days as I was fueling my car and a guy walked up and asked if I could help him out with a sandwich.

    I replied, “sure… where is it?”

    Colonel Haiku (e907d0)

  32. i guess the booming economic recovery here in the PRC is why i get two or three calls a day from contractors asking if i have any projects around the property i need done…

    of course, if we could afford the materials, i have plenty of time to do them, since i’m not w*rking, even with two professional career fields to search in. not even the temp agency has any openings for me.

    redc1c4 (403dff)

  33. honeybaked hams makes a tasty egg salad sammich for $6.00 it tastes like mom’s

    happyfeet (a55ba0)

  34. Misery Index….

    Pump price of gasoline week of 26 Jan 09:

    AD-RtR/OS! (b8ab92)

  35. Comment by Aaron Worthing — 3/14/2012 @ 9:10 am

    AW, did you see the pix on Insty @ 0800ET today showing a price board at a DC-area Exxon station with gas ranging from $5.39 – $5.69?

    AD-RtR/OS! (b8ab92)

  36. Blago reports to prison tomorrow!

    Icy (192e4b)

  37. Karl – It’s obvious that the American public in general is too stupid to understand the significant successes of the Obama Administration and the all the president has to do to change his standing with the public is to improve his messaging styrategy, e.g., lie more brazenly.

    Comment by daleyrocks — 3/14/2012 @ 10:18 am

    DaleyRocks – you nailed it

    joe_dallas (2d12c3)

  38. At a certain point, no matter what the WH and it’s willing accomplices in the media say, reality bumps up against the “spin”, and the listener discounts the veracity of whatever is being said by either.

    The Killer Rabbit Rule!

    AD-RtR/OS! (b8ab92)

  39. President Obama’s campaign staff made the curious decision to build a fundraising message around their candidate’s apparent weakness, warning supporters that Mitt Romney would beat Obama if the election were held today.

    “Friend,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote today, “If the general election were held today, President Obama would lose to Mitt Romney — according to the latest poll from Washington Post-ABC News. Now, many other polls put the President on top, but all point to the same reality: We’re looking at a race that will be tighter than you think,” Messina warned.

    Neo (e5caf3)

  40. The Obama supporters that I know are incredulous at the idea that He might lose. It may actually be a problem to Obama in that the troops are complacent if not cocky about His chances in the fall.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  41. ==It may actually be a problem to Obama in that the troops are complacent if not cocky about His chances in the fall==

    I’m a gonna try hard not to lose sleep over their possible miscalculation, Kevin M.

    elissa (97540a)

  42. “I’m a gonna try hard not to lose sleep over their possible miscalculation, Kevin M.”

    elissa – I will worry on your behalf. Ima giver. Get your rest.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  43. Blago reports to prison tomorrow!

    Comment by Icy

    Somewhere, a Muppet weeps…

    Colonel Haiku (e907d0)

  44. Blago just gave a “farewell” media event on the front porch of his house that you could have sworn was a campaign rally. Bizarre.

    elissa (97540a)

  45. Only in Chicago, elissa?

    Colonel Haiku (e907d0)

  46. Word on the street is that Blago has already been cast as the lead in the Englewood Correctional Facility’s production of “Jailhouse Rock: The Musical”.

    Colonel Haiku (e907d0)

  47. Of course, elissa, we’re also quite capable of miscalculating.

    The Dems miscalculated in 2008 when they thought that anyone would prove better than W, and the guy they ran turned out to be a lesser man. I hope we don’t offer up as lame a choice.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

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