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The Economy May Not Be Everything

But it's still pretty damn important, so it's very interesting indeed to note that both consumer confidence indices (University of Michigan and the Conference) fell sharply this month.

Here's the Wall Street Journal on the University of Michigan index:

The recent surge in oil prices and heightened concerns about sluggish job growth helped push the University of Michigan's consumer-sentiment index as of mid-October below the benchmark reading of 90 -- a level considered by some political analysts important for an incumbent president's re-election prospects. Of the six presidents seeking re-election since 1972, the three who lost faced voters when the Michigan index was below that figure.

And here's Bloomberg News on the Conference Board index:

U.S. consumer confidence fell for a third straight month in October, a private survey showed, suggesting rising voter discontent with the economy a week before President George W. Bush seeks re-election.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index dropped to 92.8 from a revised 96.7 in September, lower than previously estimated. Americans' assessment of the current economy and their outlook for the next six months fell.

The survey is the Conference Board's last before the U.S. presidential election. Since the index began in 1967, every incumbent president facing re-election with consumer confidence below 99 on Election Day has lost.

Not good news for Mr. Bush, I'd have to say. And speaking of the economy, check out this very useful report, "Less Cash in Their Pockets: Trends in Incomes, Wages, Taxes, and Health Spending of Middle-Income Families, 2000-03", from the indispensable Economic Policy Institute. A very complete analysis that makes clear why voters by 2:1 say the country is worse off, rather than better off, as a result of Bush's economic policies (lastest LA Times poll). And why two-thirds of voters believe their family is not better off today than four years ago (latest CBS/NYT poll).

Unconfident consumers with sinking incomes. Sounds to me like a recipe for incumbent defeat.

Comments

Very interesting. The question of consumer confidence is another area of economic policy where progressives need to be attacking Bush. Too often, it seems as though the Left lets itself get squelshed by discreditable right-wing neoliberal arguments. But these new numbers attest to the fact that Bush is vulnerable in this area. In addition to consumer confidence, another area where the Left should be attacking Bush is on the gigantic US balance-of-payments deficit, which severely harms US economic and national security. Wonder if anyone's done any polling on whether voters are aware of the balance-of-payments issue at all.

this summer i talked to voters in a prosperous county in florida, and while it was hardly a scientific survey the perception, even among bush supporters, was that the economy was struggling. now, they may disagree as to the fix and who might do a better job, but the feeling was almost universal. bad news for an incumbent. also the fabrizio poll of battleground states done this summer found the same result.