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The Most Important Number in Politics Today

Seventy-two percent.

That's the number of people in the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll who say that President Obama inherited the "current economic conditions" gripping the country as compared to just 14 percent who said the situation was the result mostly of his policies.

The message here is clear. Although people remain deeply pessimistic about the state of the economy -- 12 percent are either very or somewhat satisfied while a whopping 89 percent are somewhat or very dissatisfied -- they don't blame Obama for it.


If and when the American public begins to see this as Obama's economy rather than George W. Bush's economy, the data in the NBC/WSJ poll suggests the high-flying president could be in for some more difficult times.

Obama's decision to use government to grow the economy out of its current rut, a decision that means a significant increase in spending and future deficits has been greeted skeptically by voters, according to the NBC/WSJ data.

Thirty five percent said the president and Congress should worry more about "boosting the economy" even if it created larger budget deficits now and in the future while 58 percent said Obama and lawmakers should worry more about keeping the budget deficit low even if that meant a slower pace of recovery for the economy.

And, 49 percent of the sample said they have a "great deal" of concern about the growing government involvement in things like General Motors, bonuses for corporate executives and the overhaul in health care.

All of those numbers mean that whenever the American public begins to see Obama as the owner of the economy (and they will -- whether it's in a month or a year), he must be able to show that the policies he put in place in the first 100 days of his administration are making a marked improvement in peoples' economic well being.

If people see his policies as maintaining the status quo or fueling a back-sliding in the economy, it could be a very difficult election for Congressional Democrats in 2010 as they have marched in lockstep with Obama on the economy to date.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 18, 2009; 2:06 PM ET
Categories:  Parsing the Polls  
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The only important number is the 80 per cent who want to change. Those who want to do something different even if it's wrong.
The real fear of the 20 percent is that it will turn out right for a change. It's time to send them where they belong, republican hell.

Posted by: seemstome | June 19, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

And the most important number in the next two elections: the unemployment rate. The party who puts jobs first with policies, and not just words, wins. The Republicans have a real opportunity here, though it is highly unlikely they will go populist and seize it.

Posted by: optimyst | June 19, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

The most important number in politics today is sixty-something percent. That's the approximate number of people who are pleased with the Demoncratic Party, still think there the economy is a fantasy playground where children whine and hold their breath until they get what they want. Like Pelosi, like Reid, like Bidden , prove themselves to be truly "incorrigibly" stupid.

Posted by: leapin | June 19, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Let me set this up: I never voted for Bush, even once. I voted for Alan Keyes (write-in. I didn't vote for McCain; again I voted for Alan Keyes. But, saying that Bush's 8 years of failed economic policy caused the meltdown is just plain ignorance. The mess was caused by the Federal Reserve; Fanny Mae & Freddy Mac established under Pres Roosevelt; the Community Reinvestment Act signed into law under a democratic congress and Jimmy Carter in 1977; by Bill Clinton and another Democratic congress in 1994 when they put teeth into the original CRI Act; senators Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, and Congressman Barney Frank; Franklin Raines, Jim Jones, & Jaime Gorelic of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac; and a host of other democrats who vouched for the solvency of those institutions; oh, and let's not forget ACORN, who helped the demos to enforce the making of risky loans to ineligible borrowers. It wasn't Bush; it wasn't greedy Wall Street, or greedy bankers; it was the aforementioned CRIMINAL democrats. Pure and simple! Actually my very unfavorite people, Bush and McCain called on congress to put the brakes on the unsafe lending at Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. They were simply shouted down by the demos, and the communist news media didn't report the truth to the American people. But you know, I realize that you hard core demos are brainwashed by these people, so you are unable to see and understand and absorb the truth when it's presented to you. Well, I presented anyway. I hope it didn't cause too much dissonance in your brains.
Edward J. Krigbaum, Author
RELENTLESS: The Socialist Attack On American Freedom

Posted by: ejkrigbum | June 19, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Chris, count me as one of those that fully blames Obama and his team for the nations economic mess. Not just that, unless you are completely blind and a fanatic to boot you can see that Obama took the disaster Bush created and has dug the hole deeper. Their entire economic program amounts to the Peter Pan gambit -- convince he pliable media and useful fools like Cillizza to sing the happy economy song and get people to believe, really believe, that the economy is getting better and t just will. This is so bizarre and so doomed that you've got to believe this bunch is on drugs.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | June 19, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

his Marxist agenda


Does this kind of crap make you feel important?

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 19, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse

re. "72%. That's the number of people in the new NBC/WSJ poll who say that Pres. Obama inherited the current economic conditoons........etc,etc (i.e. it's Bush's fault!)
With the Main Stream Media totally and completely in the tank with Bozo Obama and his Marxist agenda--and also with the Democrap Socialist Party whose propaganda arm they've become--I'm sure that they'll be spinning this idea that everything is Bush's fault until 2012 and beyond, even when hardly anybody with any common sense will still believe it.
What is conveniently forgotten by all these polls, Cris Cillizza, and all the obviously uneducated liberal morons here is that the Democrap Socialist Party became the majority party in the House of Representatives in the 2006 elections, and has controlled the pursestrings of our government since then. In the U.S. Constitution (that the Obamanazies are trying to make null and void---although they haven't accomplished that YET), Article 1, Sec. 7, 8, and 9 makes it clear that the U.S. economy--good or bad-- is a result of their actions or in-actions. While a president can propose things he wants, and draw up a yearly budget, all these are just wish-lists. His only control input is the bully-pulpit and his veto-pen--which can be over-ridden by congress. It's the House of Representatives, and to a only slightly lesser degree the Senate, that are primarily responsible for the 2008 economic disaster, and it's Bozo Obama's facist and Marxist Robin Hood redistribution economic policies that have made it by far worse.
It'll get even worse folks, and you can take that to the bank!

Posted by: armpeg | June 19, 2009 1:10 AM | Report abuse

The most important number in politics today is twenty-something percent. That's the approximate number of people who are pleased with the Republican Party, still think there are WMDs in Iraq and Saddam was involved with 9/11, like Bush, like Palin, and otherwise prove themselves to be truly "incorrigibly" stupid.

Posted by: nodebris | June 19, 2009 12:55 AM | Report abuse


Given the following:

1. the economy Pres. Obama inherited was the worst since the Great Depression (whose Roosevelt-era safeguards had been systematically dismantled under Pres. Reagan, Bush, Sr., Clinton, and Bush, Jr.)

2. he was left with an automotive 'toilet' in need of an army of rubber-gloved 'Roto-Rooter' men

3. he had two unfinished wars to deal with, plus the Iranian and North Korean situations--both of which were made infinitely worse by the Bush-era mishandling of those problems

4. plus dozens and dozens of less overwhelming problems that needed fixing

Can the American people really be so impatient, and have such short attention spans, that they expect these gigantic problems (many of which were decades in the making) to vanish, poof!, in the space of LESS THAN 5 MONTHS????

If so, they should have elected the REAL Superman, and they should have had lightning strike the Congress as well!

Posted by: sverigegrabb | June 18, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Umm, because they don't want to be incorrigably stupid like you???


Hey, a quick word of advice: when you call someone stupid, take care not to have really obvious spelling errors.

You're about 14 years old, right, zucchini?

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 18, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

And therefore, Bravo, Chris, for telling the straight story.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | June 18, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

The media is neither right-wing nor left-wing. It's just business. They want customers, and for that they need 1) credibility, and 2) an interesting story. Not necessarily in that order.

Whether its circulation, or market share, or mouse-clicks, what they want is for people to tune in. The fact that Obama's numbers remain high is a "dog bites man" story, while any decline is by contrast "man bites dog."

Posted by: mikeinmidland | June 18, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

But yet, the rightwing MSM still runs with this:

“Sticker Shock — Obama still popular; his policies, not so much” [ABC's The Note]

“Polls find rising concern with Obama on key issues” [Reuters]

“Polls Show Declining Support For Obama Decisions” [U.S. News & World Report's Political Bulletin]

“Obama’s popularity: Problems testing it” [Chicago Tribune's The Swamp]

“Is ‘Smooth Sailing’ Over for Obama?” [Washington Post]"

The idea that the media is liberal is the biggest joke ever.

Posted by: drindl | June 18, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

12. And how confident are you that Barack Obama has the right set of goals and policies to improve the economy--extremely confident, quite confident, only somewhat confident, or not at all confident?

Extremely confident………………………. 20%
Quite confident …………………………. 26%
Only somewhat confident ………………….. 24%
Not at all confident …………………….. 29%

Similarly, 68 percent agree with Obama's view that Guantanamo detainees should be charged with a crime or released back to their home countries, as opposed to only 24 percent who think they should be detained indefinitely. As Glenn Greenwald notes, "The view that detainees should be charged with crimes or released is often depicted as the fringe 'Far Left' view. Like so many views that are similarly depicted, it is - in reality - the overwhelming consensus view among Americans."

Perhaps the most bizarre headline came from USA Today's blog, The VAL: "Poll: Obama down, cousin Cheney up." The poll cited showed that 60 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Obama. By contrast, only 27 percent viewed Cheney favorably - while 30 percent viewed him "very negatively."

UPDATEThe headline to a new Pew research poll claims Obama faces "Some Policy Concerns." However, the poll finds that 61 percent approve of Obama's job performance (including 57 percent and 52 percent approving of his handling of foreign and economic policy, respectively), while 65 percent are "optimistic" Obama's policies will improve economic conditions.

Posted by: drindl | June 18, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

The actualy polls don't support your rightish conclusion, CC..

The headlines have little to no relation to the actual data in the polls, both of which found broad approval for Obama's foreign policy and economic agendas. From the New York Times/CBS poll:

5. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy? 57% approve, 35% disapprove

8. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the threat of terrorism? 57% approve, 27% disapprove

16. So far, do you think Barack Obama's policies have made the economy better, made the economy worse or haven't his policies had any effect on the economy yet? 32% say better, 15% say worse

And from the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll:

4b. Do you generally approve or disapprove of the job that Barack Obama is doing in handling the economy? 51% approve, 38% disapprove

4c. Do you generally approve or disapprove of the job that Barack Obama is doing in handling foreign policy? 54% approve , 36% disapprove

9. Which ONE of the following statements best describes your feelings toward Barack Obama?

Like personally and approve most policies…………… 48%
Like personally but disapprove of many policies ……27%

Posted by: drindl | June 18, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, Barack Obama is going to run "against" George Bush again in 2012?!

Posted by: JakeD | June 18, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse


Coward liar Barack HUSSEIN Obama "Apologist in chief", how can he keep his nonsense promise during his campaign, that is, negotiating with U.S. enemies such as North Korea and Iran, which have never respected any treaty with U.S., especially when North Korea just launched many missile and nuclear tests and planned to fire missile toward Hawaii, not mentioning illegally arrested and sentenced two American journalists Laura Ling and Eunu Lee to twelve years of labor, while Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an extremist who called for Israel to be wiped off the map and denied the holocaust, was just re-elected by fraud. Is Obama going to bow to Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejas as he did to King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia to gain his peace deals? Is he willing to convert to Islam, his Kenyan father and Indonesian step father's religion, to meet Osama Bin Laden's requirement that in order to end the Iraq war, U.S. troop withdrawal is not enough, Americans must reject their democratic system and embrace Islam? Just recently, Obama said that he would support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections, giving a green light to Teheran's ambituous uranium enrichment program, which can be used for its discreet nuclear bomb development program as well, without suffering sanctions and economic isolation as it currently endures. Does Obama want Iran to become another North Korea using its nuclear power to terrorize the U.S and its allies? Worst still, Obama refused to show support for pro-democracy protesters and denounce the brutal regime for the deaths of seven demontrators, fearing to be seen as interfering in Iran's internal affairs so that he could not pursue a nuclear deal with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader. In fact, Obama sided with the regime, citing that there was not a bit of difference between the two candidates, a moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi and hardcore extremist Ahmadinejad. A big mouth for change at home, he does not want to see any change in Iran. Is he going to turn a blind eye to another Tianamen Square massacre committed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? As for a Palestinian state demanded by Obama, it will undoubtedly soon become a TERRORIST state under control of terrorist militant group Hamas, which is the most powerful and popular force with its goal to destroy Israel and which won a majority seats in the current Palestinian National Authority in 2006 election and ousted Fatah militant group of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas of Gaza in 2007. Last but not least, Obama ordered to stop waterboarding tactic used by CIA, even it worked well on terrorist suspects like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-describer planner of 9-11 attacks who provided CIA with valuable information, preventing more 9-11 attacks and saving thousands of American lives.

Posted by: TIMNGUYEN1 | June 18, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Dude, what the hell happened in the post about Bush and Obama??? The place just blew up.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 18, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Why should anyone listen to Republicans?

Umm, because they don't want to be incorrigably stupid like you???

Posted by: king_of_zouk | June 18, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

The GOPers are already going after Obama for blaming the mess he inherited on the guy who made the mess, only four months in. Yet the same people swallowed the sinker when Reagan blamed the Beirut bombing on Carter, three years in.

Why should anyone listen to Republicans?

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 18, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree with bsimon1 again and I had hoped for Rs to be "out front" on pay-go and was again disappointed by their total rejection of fiscal responsibility.

The first decline in unemployment in 22 mos, while not a dispositive statistic, is a good sign [IMO]. Even if the recovery of the economy is weak and even if it is unrelated to Admin policies the Admin will get the credit.

As I have written before, "lower taxes" is not always a fiscally sound message, even if it has often bought votes.

I am a bit heartened that the war funding bill got cleaned up and Rs will now support it - heartened b/c I never favor leaving our troops out on a limb and then sawing it off.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | June 18, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

People who are honestly worried about the deficit aren't likely to turn to Republicans for a solution. Not if they can read a chart, anyway.

Posted by: nodebris | June 18, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The Fix writes
"All of those numbers mean that whenever the American public begins to see Obama as the owner of the economy (and they will -- whether it's in a month or a year), he must be able to show that the policies he put in place in the first 100 days of his administration are making a marked improvement in peoples' economic well being."

That is the point often missed by the critics that look at only a subset of the data. For instance one regular poster here notes the level of people concerned about the deficit and finds 'good news' in the 7 out of 10 people worried about the deficit. I think he is misleading himself, hoping to find a chink in Obama's armor that does not necessarily exist. The problem the GOP faces is that the President is also worried about the deficit. When he proposed pay-go last week, their only response was "but you already spent so much money!" If they were really worried about the deficit they'd welcome his announcement and find ways to work together to solve the problem. Instead, they see him coopting one of their lines of attack and are left dumbstruck at what to do next.

Here's a hint: govern first, worry about the next election later.

Posted by: bsimon1 | June 18, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

The recovery of long-term memory is the worst thing to happen to Republicans yet. This means that none of their messaging will work anymore.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 18, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

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