Gallup has a fascinating poll out today which asks the age-old question: who do you trust on the economy? Now, these sorts of polls are always more interesting than they are useful in predicting election results, and tend to produce some results that make little sense (for instance, I categorically reject the notion that 82% of the population even knows who Tim Geithner is). Further, this particular poll has built into it several well-known bias errors (for instance, voters always react more favorably to their Congressman/Governor/etc. than to nebulous groups of Congressmen in general, whether Republican or Democrat). All of that notwithstanding, the poll contains a good bit of bad news for the Democrats.
It is not much of an oversimplification to state that American swing voters elect Republicans to protect them from the barbarians at the gates, and elect Democrats to handle the economy. Whether they are right to act that way is beside the point – swing voters tend to be less plugged in and have beliefs about the respective parties’ roles in keeping the country going that are highly resistant to change. Whenever voters lose trust in Republicans to handle national security, or lose trust in Democrats to handle the economy, you know an electoral butt-kicking is around the corner. Which is why this is the kind of graph you do not want to see if you are a Democrat:
Or, if you’re Barack Obama, you probably don’t like seeing this one:
Note, of course, that the 2008 poll reflected the fact that Obama was, at that time, a Senator in the middle of a fierce election contest. The relevant numbers here are the 2009-2011 numbers, which are not an encouraging trendline.
The poll also contains a number of mixed messages. While Democrats’ numbers on this question are in the tank, Republicans’ numbers are not markedly better. Further, this poll is yet another indicator that America is souring on the Tea Party, as they are trusted less than anyone other than labor unions. But in electoral terms, economic confidence is simply not as important to Republicans as it is to Democrats. Further, although the poll question (asking about “your governor” rather than “governors”) contains a built-in bias, the American public at large seems to have favorable views of what America’s governors are doing, and 60% of those governors are currently Republicans. At the very least, this poll suggests that the high profile actions of governors like Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Mitch Daniels, and John Kasich have not been poisonous with the American electorate at large, and it bodes well for future GOP prospects in the White House.