Monday’s Pew Research Poll on economic policy suggests Fred, our archetypal median voter, trusts President Obama on the economy … or he trusts no one. That’s bad news for Tea Party GOP candidates, but not entirely good news for Democrats.
First the good news. In the poll, 46% said following President Obama’s economic policies “would do more to improve economic conditions in the country over the next few years.” By comparison, only 29% who say following President Bush’s economic policies would do so.
While George W. Bush is not a candidate in 2010, Tea Party GOP leaders like Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) have argued the 2010 midterms offer voters a chance to “go back to the exact same agenda that is empowering the free enterprise system rather than diminishing it.” (Rep. Sessions is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.)
Not surprisingly, the poll split along party lines, with 84% of Democrats favoring President Obama’s policies and 63% of Republicans favoring President Bush’s. But given the widespread media narrative that President Obama has “lost the center,” the response among Independents was surprising. While 43% of Independents trust President Obama’s policies, the bad news gets even worse for the Tea Party GOP. Only 20% of Freds believe the Bush/Tea Party GOP policies will help our economy, as compared to 27% who think neither would help.
In short, Fred trusts President Obama on the economy … or he trusts no one.
Skepticism is greater among white Independents: 37% believe President Obama’s policies would help, 22% believe Bush/Tea Party GOP policies would help, and 32% believe neither would help.
The poll also asked whether the Bush tax cuts should be kept, repealed for the wealthy, or repealed entirely. The overall results were evenly split – 30% for keeping the Bush tax cuts, 27% for repealing tax cuts for the wealthy, and 32% for repealing all Bush tax cuts – with the same partisan split: only 11% of Democrats favor keeping the Bush tax cuts, vs. 52% of Republicans. The numbers for Independents matched the overall numbers, within the poll’s margin of error.
Yes, Democrats must run against the Tea Party GOP and highlight their plan to return to the disastrous policies of President Bush. But that’s not enough. Skeptical Fred – 27% of Independents, 32% of white Independents – doesn’t trust either party on the economy … and probably won’t vote at all unless we convince him to give President Obama’s policies more time.
“I don’t trust them” is not the same as “I trust you.” We need to win Fred’s trust.
Note: The poll report offers excellent tools to compare crosstabs. I encourage you to play around with it and see which numbers pop out for you.