Dim View of Economy, Better One of Obama
Senior Features Editor
The Gasoline Equation.
The Gasoline Equation
The stubbornly high level of negativity about the economy almost certainly has many sources, but the most prominent one of late has been the steady rise in gasoline prices, an extremely powerful factor among voters at the lower-end of the income scale, who are also the most likely to have static wages.
Analysts say gasoline prices, now averaging just under $4 a gallon, may be the wild card in the election, especially as both the labor and housing markets show signs of stabilization or improvement after prolonged malaise.
Gasoline prices were the top concern of 28 percent of the CNBC respondents, the same as health care. For people with incomes between $30,000 and $50,000, it was 33 percent.
The percentages were even higher for those in the South (35 percent) and who identified themselves as blue collar (38 percent), two weak spots for Obama.
When prices last hit this level in the summer of 2007, the presidential election was still more than a year away. Nevertheless, Bush’s approval ratings fell to a low of 29 percent that June.
Obama’s performance approval rating has never been that low (its bottom was 44 percent in August 2011), and he has always been popular on a personal basis. Still, aside from its recent blip and another around the time of Osama bin Laden's killing, the president's ratings have been below 50 percent since spring 2010.
“The president is the guy in charge and the incumbent will always have to answer to some degree for the state of the economy,” says Campbell. "But, as the saying goes: Is an election a choice or a referendum?"