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US 'Right Track/Wrong Track' Levels Off

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doug_thompson

Consumer confidence rises

By Doug Thompson

There was no significant backlash against President Obama and the number of people who thought the country was on the wrong track was falling steadily, I wrote recently. There’s still no backlash, but there’s been a levelling-off that’s worth writing about.
The analysis of different polls over at Pollster.com notices a very slight uptick in the number of people who think the country’s on the wrong track, from 50 percent to 50.2. Normally I wouldn’t write about something so tiny. Such a little thing could be a blip in the numbers. Still, there’s been enough polls done to convince me that the levelling-off is real.
There’s also a rise in the number of people who think the country’s on the right track, but only 44 percent think so. More importantly, those “tracks” are running parallel. It’s no longer looking like the lines were going to cross anything soon.
This is important because the president’s been responding to multiple crises so far. Now he’s hoping to get into the meat of his agenda, which includes health care reform.
He had our support while he was trying to put out fires. I’m not sure how strong that support will be now that he’s turned to trying to build something. He’s still very popular. The president’s personal favorability rating remains very high at 62.6 percent. His unfavorability rating is a token 29.4.
It’s dangerous to generalize from any of this. After all, Obama has a huge advantage in the health care fight. That advantage is economic reality. Our health care costs are killing this country’s competitiveness. The type of cost increases we’ve seen in past years simply cannot be sustained. However, it appears right now that this fight and others are going to get tougher.
I don’t know whether more and more people are thinking the crisis has bottomed out. It’s safe to say that they’re not panicked anymore and are therefore not as willing to leave the president with such wide latitude. This may only mean he may have to use his demonstrated political skills more to get his programs passed, but it does mean something.
This isn’t a backlash. This is natural. It is worth noting, however. If things have improved, or at least leveled off, enough that people aren’t panicked about the economy, then that’s a good thing.
On a related note, the industry group that tracks consumer confidence reports that, by that measure, consumers are more confident now than at any time in the last eight months. Confidence is still struggling to recover from historic lows, but it had its biggest jump in May than in any one month since 2003.
None of this has translated into relative gains for the Republican Party. That’s very significant.
According to Pollster.com, the independents have taken sides. This is terrible news for the Republicans. The number of poll respondents calling themselves independents has nose-dived from 39 percent to 27.3 percent in the last month. During that same period, Democrats climbed form 33 percent to 39.7. Republicans climbed too, from 22 percent to 31.
That looks great on the face of it. After all, GOP party identification grew 9 percent. So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that only 27.3 percent of voters still call themselves independent and there’s a 9 percentage point gap in favor of the Democrats. The well of uncommitted voters is drying fast and the GOP hasn’t close the gap. The figures that leave them in the minority appear to be hardening.
OK. Enough data. Time for Doug’s wild guess.
I don’t think standing up as the party that favors torture is doing the GOP a lot of good. I think that’s one of those moral choice wedge issues that, for once, is seriously hurting the GOP. How many people who’ve made up their minds recently about identifying with one major party or the other really wanted to be in the party of Dick Cheney, a man who literally used the term “dark side” in describing what U.S. policy should be?
You can’t ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” and support water-boarding people.

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