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Jobs beat deficit for voters, but not for politicians

I'll admit that until I looked into this last week, I thought that the Gallup poll suggesting that the deficit had become a top concern was a fairly conventional result. But as Ben Somberg notes, that's not the case: Jobs and unemployment are well ahead of the deficit in most polls.

That said, the fact that people are worried about jobs and unemployment doesn't mean that they trust that more stimulus spending will make much of a dent. The way a lot of politicians are experiencing public opinion has left them convinced that voters believe further spending increases the deficit but don't believe that it increases employment and thus they think the safe play is to avoid doing anything at all. Moreover, politicians think a lot more about the press they'll get the day after they vote for a bill than what unemployment will look like the day before America decides whether to vote for them.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 21, 2010; 1:06 PM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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Comments

Political reality aside for a moment, I'd like to think the public would be more in favor of a WPA/CCC-type jobs stimulus --- which creates real, tangible jobs that they can see (as well as the public works that get built) --- as opposed to the amorphous, indirect job stimulus of tax incentives and extensions of benefits to the unemployed. Maybe I'm romanticizing the WPA/CCC, but given that Sean Hannity is going to accuse the President and Congress of socialist indoctrination no matter what the do, they should just brush the dirt of their shoulders and create a real jobs program.

Posted by: pbasso_khan | June 21, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Political reality aside for a moment, I'd like to think the public would be more in favor of a WPA/CCC-type jobs stimulus --- which creates real, tangible jobs that they can see (as well as the public works that get built) --- as opposed to the amorphous, indirect job stimulus of tax incentives and extensions of benefits to the unemployed. Maybe I'm romanticizing the WPA/CCC, but given that Sean Hannity is going to accuse the President and Congress of socialist indoctrination no matter what they do, they should just brush the dirt of their shoulders and create a real jobs program.

Posted by: pbasso_khan | June 21, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

--"I thought that the Gallup poll suggesting that the deficit had become a top concern was a fairly conventional result. But as Ben Somberg notes, that's not the case: Jobs and unemployment are well ahead of the deficit in most polls."--

That ties in nicely with your post with the XKCD cartoon making fun of how, for example, much of Ezra Klein's "wonkery" consists of pulling tufts out of the hairballs of polls.

Posted by: msoja | June 21, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"The way a lot of politicians are experiencing public opinion has left them convinced that voters believe further spending increases the deficit but don't believe that it increases employment and thus they think the safe play is to avoid doing anything at all."

The only problem with that is politicians are forgetting the voters are uninformed, apathetic, reactionary morons. Alas, at a time when we need bold action at both the state and federal levels, we are left with incoherent rhetoric and incomplete policy solutions. It is really difficult to be optimistic right now.

Posted by: ntb1 | June 21, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"I'd like to think the public would be more in favor of a WPA/CCC-type jobs stimulus --- which creates real, tangible jobs that they can see (as well as the public works that get built) --- as opposed to the amorphous, indirect job stimulus of tax incentives and extensions of benefits to the unemployed."

I think there's something to this. Whether or not a direct WPA-style program would work better, I think there's something to be said for its visibility. It would make people think that government is actually "doing something". As much as we may hate it, appearances matter.

Posted by: slag | June 21, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Well. maybe mnore of those politicians have to face unemployment or the threst thereof. Although nearly losing a primary didn't make Blanche Lincoln any more concerned about those other than Wal-Mart heirs. Maybe some bad polling on the November race will.

Posted by: Mimikatz | June 21, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The fact is that without more help from the government, even if it increases the deficit, more people are going to lose their homes and less money is going to circulate through the economy. Will that really help?
btw, for those looking for work, there's great job search advice on the internet radio show at www.jobtalkamerica.com

Posted by: kcsam215 | June 21, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

And so we have reached the point that thinking about the next election is the far sighted alternative. I recall back in the day, when we denounced short sighted politicians who didn't care what happened after the next election. Now the alternatives are between who will win the election and who won the week.

It is also true that politicians care about getting the credit or blame. Even if additional stimulus works before election, most voters will not believe it. We know that as the extremely dramatic evidence that ARRA worked hasn't convinced most adult Americans. You can't hope for stronger evidence and it was nowhere near enough.

Finally, you seem to assume that Senators agree with you and disagree with most voters -- that they believe that stimulus works and just fear voters' belief that it doesn't. You are assuming that Ben Nelson has a better understanding of the economy than the median voter. Is this view supported by any evidence ?

Posted by: rjw88 | June 21, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

And so we have reached the point that thinking about the next election is the far sighted alternative. I recall back in the day, when we denounced short sighted politicians who didn't care what happened after the next election. Now the alternatives are between who will win the election and who won the week.

It is also true that politicians care about getting the credit or blame. Even if additional stimulus works before election, most voters will not believe it. We know that as the extremely dramatic evidence that ARRA worked hasn't convinced most adult Americans. You can't hope for stronger evidence and it was nowhere near enough.

Finally, you seem to assume that Senators agree with you and disagree with most voters -- that they believe that stimulus works and just fear voters' belief that it doesn't. You are assuming that Ben Nelson has a better understanding of the economy than the median voter. Is this view supported by any evidence ?

Posted by: rjw88 | June 21, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

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