Just in case you missed, it, we’ve been highlighting two important trends here at Gallup:
- Republicans in general continue to be in a positive position in terms of the coming fall midterm elections. They are doing well on our generic ballot, which ends up being very predictive of the midterm election outcomes. My colleague Jeff Jones will post a story on Monday morning showing that the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats so far this year is of historic proportions. In other words, all indicators continue to suggest a very strong Republican year at the ballot box this coming Nov. 2.
- At the same time, important Gallup economic trends continue to move in a positive direction. I would pay particular attention to our job creation index (JCI). As my colleague Dennis Jacobe has noted, the JCI is now at a 20-month high point. Similarly, our underemployment index is trending in a positive direction. (And consumer spending in general is trending up.)
Is it possible that these two trends are on a collision course of sorts?
There is the operative hypothesis that the Democrats will do better to the degree that the economy is doing better. As a Bloomberg Businessweek news story Friday put it: "The economy will be a top issue in the November elections that will determine which party controls the House and Senate." Huffington Post blogger Robert Creamer says: "That's why the single most important thing Democrats in Congress can do to improve the political climate this fall is anything that creates or saves more jobs." And so on and so forth.
The news hook for the Bloomberg Businessweek news story, of course, was President Obama's Friday trip to Ohio, during which he highlighted the "summer of recovery" he claims lies before the nation. As Obama reminded his audience: "Since I was here last year, we’ve begun to see progress all across the country."
Now, some may argue that it's too late. That the impact of the recession and poor economy is already imprinted on voters' minds and that nothing is going to change that between now and Election Day. On the other hand lies the real possibility that if by next fall Americans were to move to the point where they acknowledged that the economy was taking off (i.e., more and more jobs and a rising stock market), the Democrats would be able to mitigate their worst case scenario and downsize seat losses.
Keep in mind that we do not yet see a marked improvement in our Gallup economic confidence index. Attitudes about the economy are trailing the harder evidence that the economy is doing better. This may be why we see no major pickup in our generic ballot tracking yet for Democrats.
But the economy is clearly a major variable we will be watching all summer. There is no question that our measures show a definite, demonstrable uptick in hiring at this point. The degree to which this continues, and in turn is translated into a relative Democratic advantage, remains to be seen.