Last week, in light of the superstorm that slammed much of the East coast, Gallup decided to suspend its daily horserace tracking poll, but the pollster is still gauging public attitudes in a variety of other areas. Gallup’s “U.S. Economic Confidence Index” continues to be of interest because it helps answer a fairly straightforward question: are Americans feeling better or worse about the economy?
Yesterday’s results caught my eye because they pointed to a striking shift in public opinion. As things currently stand, Americans’ confidence in the domestic economy isn’t just improving, it’s now at its highest point of the Obama presidency. (The results include voters’ sentiment after Friday’s fairly strong job numbers.)
[Update: On Sunday afternoon, the index reached another new high, so I’ve updated the image accordingly.]
I keep an eye on this because it seems likely to me that public attitudes about the economy may have electoral salience for late-deciding voters. As both campaigns make their closing arguments, Mitt Romney is, in effect, insisting the state of the economy is reason enough to elect him president, while President Obama argues that conditions are improving and it’d be a mistake to go back to the policies that got us in this mess in the first place.
It’s hardly a stretch to think Romney’s argument would be more effective if Americans’ economic confidence weren’t spiking as the campaign comes to an end. It’s tough for a candidate to make the case for dramatic change when the electorate is starting to feel better, not worse.