Too Little, Too Slow: Barack Obama's Sticky Economic Disapproval Crisis

More

In 2008, Barack Obama summed up his case against Republicans with the slogan "Had Enough?" In 2012, Republicans could take back the White House with the slogan "Not Enough."

Since January 2010, the U.S. has added more than 4 million private sector jobs, the economy has grown, if slowly, in every quarter, and the unemployment rate has fallen by 1.5 percentage points. But it's been not enough -- too little, too slow -- and President Obama's approval rating for the economy is no higher than it was two and a half years ago.

The graph below shows public approval of Obama's handling of the economy since February 2009. The long story made short is that the burst of optimism after Obama's election faded as the economy shed 4 million jobs in the president's first year in office. Since then, it's been a steady erosion of support until the end of last year. Today's NYT/CBS poll finds economic approval slipping again.

Screen Shot 2012-07-19 at 11.15.41 AM.png

Here's the same graph as above, overlayed with the economy's most visible and talked-about indicator: the unemployment rate, whose axis is on the right. The relationship, if one exists, is hard to see. A falling unemployment rate has been too little, too slow, and not enough to stem the flood of support for the president's economic policies.

Screen Shot 2012-07-19 at 11.16.26 AM.png

Here's the same graph, this time comparing only economic disapproval and the unemployment rate. You might expect that disapproval and unemployment would fall in tandem, as celebrated jobs reports drove up approval of the administration. But the rate of recovery has been so slow that even small positive numbers have failed to inspire confidence in the White House.

Screen Shot 2012-07-19 at 11.20.52 AM.png

If you cut off the first two years of Obama's term to focus on the recent past -- not that I'm suggesting voters have short memory spans, of course -- Obama's economic approval/disapproval looks remarkably consistent. The confidence gap hovers around 10 or 15 percent, breaks open after our awful 2011 summer, and closes after a series of strong jobs reports. Now we're back near 15 percent.

Screen Shot 2012-07-19 at 11.17.37 AM.png

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon About the Toys in Your Cereal Box

The story of an action figure and his reluctant sidekick, who trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In