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Friday, December 4, 2009

Busy Times for the People's Chief Executive

President Obama, the people's Chief Executive, recently has been or will be involved with four issues of significance to those who elected him.

First, the ongoing debate on healthcare reform. Second, the newly announced policy in Afghanistan. Third, the White House jobs summit held Thursday. Fourth, the Copenhagen summit on the climate to which Obama will travel on Dec. 18.

From Americans’ perspective, it is the third of these that is most important. Americans believe that jobs and the economy remain the top problems facing the U.S.

I’ve been looking through news reports of the White House jobs summit. These give us a sense of some of the ideas that percolated from the sessions. These include weatherization, small-business incentives, regulatory and other help for exporters, tax credits (Washington Post); easing immigration policies for tourists, more support for small businesses, changes in trade policies, lowering the corporate tax rate (USA Today); lower corporate tax rate, create more government jobs, build new community schools in rural areas, tax incentives for job creation, improving the credit markets, using community colleges as training centers for employers (Politico).

We don't yet have a public tally or explicit list of the results of the conference from the White House. Jesse Lee, the official blog director at the White House, informs us that, “It was an intensive afternoon at the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum.” The president spoke at length with the participants to hear their ideas and “. . . these ideas will be evaluated carefully within the White House.” (Lee informs those interested that they can hold their own community jobs forum.)

It now appears that President Obama will make a speech on jobs this coming Tuesday. We presume that in this speech the president will lay out some of what was learned at the forum -- and perhaps from the citizens of Allentown, Pa., where Obama spent time on Friday.

We know what the public thinks are the best ways to create jobs. We asked them. Here are the top 10 responses:
  1. Keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
  2. Lower taxes
  3. Help small businesses
  4. Create more infrastructure work
  5. Reduce government regulation/involvement
  6. Create more “green” jobs
  7. Provide more “stimulus” money; Higher takes on imports/Buy American
  8. Improve education; Hire more U.S. citizens/Stop hiring illegal aliens; cut government spending/Reduce the deficit
  9. Make more credit available/Make it easier to get loans
  10. Improve the economy over; Encourage more spending

Meanwhile, back to issue two -- Afghanistan. Despite the usual back-and-forth reaction, Obama's new policy has the support of a slight majority of Americans.

As I pointed out in this Dec. 3 story, the president enjoys a unique situation in which a majority of Democrats and Republicans support his Afghan strategy. (He has lower support among independents.) Democrats have been critical of the idea of increasing troops. News reports highlight the liberal worry over Obama’s new policy. Yet 58% of Democrats support the policy (as described in the Gallup question wording). Certainly this level of support from rank-and-file Democrats is lower than support on many of his other policies from his own party. But it is a majority. (Earlier polling showed that well under half of Democrats favored increasing troops in Afghanistan generically.) And, for Obama to get majority support from Republicans on any policy issue is certainly an unusual situation.

Issue one? The healthcare debate rages on in the Senate while a skeptical public waits. I just reviewed a series of polls conducted in the past month. Each asked about the healthcare reform bill in a different way. In none of these did half or more approve. It probably no longer matters. At this point Obama and the Democratic and House leaders are so far down the tracks with the healthcare reform train that public opinion is not going to derail them -- no matter what it shows.

Issue four? Climate change is not Americans’ top priority. Many of our Gallup measures on global warming have been showing less concern, rather than more. A recent Pew Research Center poll found the same thing. Quite dramatically. This is in and of itself a fascinating phenomenon. Something is going on here. Why has the percentage of Americans believing in global warming been going down rather than up? We just don't know for sure. Now, we have “Climategate.” Some who are focusing on Climategate will argue that the public was ahead of its time. Some obviously would not.

What’s ahead for the people’s elected chief executive? He's off to Oslo, Norway next week to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps aware of the imagery that will emanate from Oslo -- Obama in white tie and tails getting his medal -- his advisors have scheduled the aforementioned jobs speech just before he leaves. Announcing a change of plans, the White House now says that the President will go to Copenhagen for the U.N. Climate Change Conference on Dec. 18, rather than on his way to Olso on Dec. 9th as previously scheduled.


Anonymous said...
December 4, 2009 at 5:15 PM  

Dr. Newport,

I just watched your video from today (Dec. 4, 2009), "Obama Approval by Party Not Atypical" and had a question. The date you used for President Bush came from Feb. 2005, during his second term. Since, during a first term, a President creates a policy record (often a partisan one) I could understand the greater partisan divide, but wouldn't it be more appropriate to compare Obama's current numbers to some point during President Bush's first term? If not, why not. Thank you very much.

Greg Lopp said...
December 8, 2009 at 1:57 PM  

Without real Job Creation in the Economy, all the rest is a mute point. Engineers are looking for Jobs. Corporations are shipping jobs overseas.
Dec 25, 2009 in American living rooms, around christmas trees, will seal most americans view of the president. Americans are watching, waiting, president and congress must refocus. Its the economy, Period.

Kerri Ousley said...
December 19, 2009 at 2:29 PM  

We are over 10% unemployment in the country right now. With some states, such as Michigan, the number is even higher, 15%. This is one of the factors in a depression. I can only see it getting worse. Instead of worrying about things most Americans are not in favor of( health care, Cap & rade), our government should be trying to get people back to work. There are numerous ways to create jobs and the government is well aware of them, but it looks like the federal government is purposely ignoring them, so as to keep the people more dependent on the government. Government jobs are not real jobs, small businesses account for 40% of the jobs in America, so the administration taxes them right out of business.

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