With Doubts, Voters Prefer Obama Jobs Plan

Jobless: Desperate times.
National Journal
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Ronald Brownstein
Sept. 12, 2011, 5:35 p.m.

Des­pite deep­en­ing doubts about Pres­id­ent Obama’s eco­nom­ic agenda, Amer­ic­ans gen­er­ally prefer the pro­pos­als he offered last week for re­viv­ing the eco­nomy to the com­pet­ing ideas ad­vanced by con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans and the GOP’s 2012 pres­id­en­tial field, a United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll has found.

The poll sug­gests Amer­ic­ans re­main un­con­vinced that either party’s agenda can sig­ni­fic­antly dent the na­tion’s longest peri­od of sus­tained un­em­ploy­ment since the De­pres­sion. The share of Amer­ic­ans who said that Obama’s policies have com­poun­ded eco­nom­ic dif­fi­culties was nearly double the por­tion who said he has im­proved con­di­tions. And just one-in-six said they ex­pec­ted the jobs plan he sent to Con­gress will sig­ni­fic­antly re­duce un­em­ploy­ment.

Yet, nearly half of those sur­veyed thought his plan would help some­what, and the pres­id­ent still held a 37 per­cent to 35 per­cent ad­vant­age over con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans when re­spond­ents were asked whom they trus­ted more to re­vive the eco­nomy.

The Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, in­ter­viewed 1,010 adults by land­line and cell phone Sept. 8-11 for most of the ques­tions in the sur­vey; those ques­tions have a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.6 per­cent­age points. In­ter­views about Obama’s new jobs plan, which he an­nounced on the even­ing of Sept. 8, were con­duc­ted with 783 adults Sept. 9-11; those ques­tions have a mar­gin of er­ror of 4.1 per­cent­age points.

With some ex­cep­tions, those polled saw more prom­ise in the ideas that Obama offered in his speech than pro­pos­als Re­pub­lic­ans are tout­ing in Con­gress and in the 2012 cam­paign. The sur­vey spe­cific­ally iden­ti­fied the al­tern­at­ives as pro­pos­als from the GOP or Pres­id­ent Obama.

The most pop­u­lar Re­pub­lic­an pro­pos­al is the call to pass a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to cap fed­er­al spend­ing at a fixed share of the eco­nomy and re­quire Wash­ing­ton to bal­ance its budget. Two-thirds of those polled thought that idea would be either very ef­fect­ive or some­what ef­fect­ive at cre­at­ing more jobs.

From Na­tion­al Journ­al: PIC­TURES: GOP Can­did­ates De­bate in Tampa Is Perry Mak­ing Rom­ney a Bet­ter Can­did­ate? GRAPH­IC: Flor­ida’s Polit­ic­al Cor­ridor Obama Gets Spe­cif­ic in His Jobs Bill Charlie Cook: Volat­il­ity Now the Watch­word

But oth­er corner­stones of the GOP agenda drew more mod­est sup­port. Just 52 per­cent thought re­du­cing cor­por­ate taxes would be very ef­fect­ive or some­what ef­fect­ive at cre­at­ing jobs. When it came to what re­spond­ents thought would lead to a big jobs boost, 50 per­cent cited re­peal of Obama’s health care law, and 47 per­cent cited both Mitt Rom­ney’s pro­pos­al to re­quire Wash­ing­ton to re­peal a reg­u­la­tion for each new one pro­mul­gated and an ex­ten­sion of George W. Bush’s tax cuts for all earners.

Nearly as many (46 per­cent) thought that ex­tend­ing the Bush tax cuts would not be too ef­fect­ive or not ef­fect­ive at all. That was the most skep­ti­cism ex­pressed about any GOP ideas — al­though at least 37 per­cent also said ex­pressed doubt that re­peal­ing the health care law, lim­it­ing reg­u­la­tions as Rom­ney pro­posed, or cut­ting cor­por­ate taxes would do much good.

Ideas Obama touted in last week’s speech gen­er­ally fared bet­ter. Three-fourths of those polled said they be­lieved his pro­pos­al to cut taxes on em­ploy­ers who hire new work­ers, or provide a raise to ex­ist­ing ones, would be either very or some­what ef­fect­ive in cre­at­ing jobs. Sev­en-in-10 said the same about his pro­pos­al to provide state and loc­al gov­ern­ments funds to pre­vent lay­offs of teach­ers and po­lice of­ficers. Two-thirds rendered the same ver­dict on the idea of help­ing more homeown­ers re­fin­ance their mort­gages at lower in­terest rates.

The ele­ment of Obama’s plan that costs the most, and is most likely to at­tract sup­port from con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans, ac­tu­ally polled the weak­est: cut­ting the So­cial Se­cur­ity payroll taxes paid by work­ers and em­ploy­ers. Just 42 per­cent of those sur­veyed be­lieved that would be even some­what ef­fect­ive, while 52 per­cent thought it would have little or no ef­fect

For the most part, re­ac­tion to these ideas showed re­mark­able con­sist­ency across most of the demo­graph­ic fault lines. Par­tis­an­ship, not sur­pris­ingly, was the big ex­cep­tion: Re­pub­lic­ans re­spon­ded much more fa­vor­ably to the GOP ideas, and Demo­crats showed more en­thu­si­asm for Obama’s pro­pos­als. Oth­er than that, one of the few telling con­trasts came over tax cuts: Whites (at 51 per­cent) were much more likely than minor­it­ies (just 39 per­cent) to be­lieve that ex­tend­ing the Bush tax cuts would sig­ni­fic­antly help cre­ate jobs.

Con­versely, minor­it­ies (at 51 per­cent) were much more likely than whites (just 38 per­cent) to be­lieve that cut­ting So­cial Se­cur­ity taxes would im­prove con­di­tions. Seni­ors were es­pe­cially du­bi­ous of cut­ting So­cial Se­cur­ity taxes.

More fa­mil­i­ar di­vides re­sur­faced in as­sess­ments of Obama’s re­cord and his new plan. Over­all, about one-fifth of those sur­veyed said Obama’s eco­nom­ic policies since tak­ing of­fice had im­proved the eco­nomy; nearly two-fifths said he had made the eco­nomy worse, while the rest said his policies have had no ef­fect. That is Obama’s worst show­ing since tak­ing of­fice, when com­pared with earli­er find­ings on the same ques­tion from the non­par­tis­an Pew Re­search Cen­ter.

Re­ac­tions on that ques­tion showed a sharp ra­cial di­vide: though weak it­self, the share of minor­it­ies who thought Obama’s agenda had im­proved the eco­nomy (29 per­cent) still ex­ceeded the por­tion who thought he had weakened it (18 per­cent). But among whites, fully 48 per­cent thought his ac­tions had hurt the eco­nomy-nearly triple the 17 per­cent who be­lieved he had im­proved it. Col­lege-edu­cated whites, who have gen­er­ally been more pos­it­ive to­ward Obama, were as neg­at­ive on this judg­ment as whites without a col­lege de­gree, his toughest audi­ence throughout his pres­id­ency.

All of these res­ults un­der­score how much Obama’s hopes next year may turn on con­vin­cing voters to see the 2012 elec­tion as a for­ward-look­ing choice between com­pet­ing vis­ion rather than a ref­er­en­dum on his res­ults since 2009.


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