Over the past several months President Obama’s overall job ratings have been alternately holding steady and inching upward. His ratings on the economy are following suit. In March, 32% of Americans gave President Obama positive ratings on his handling of the economy while 68% gave him negative ratings. This is the same as in February and an improvement from the 25% and 75% who rated him positively and negatively respectively in December and January.
While there is still a concern about unemployment, more Americans say the job market in their region of the country is good. Over the past three and a half years The Harris Poll has regularly asked Americans about the job market in their region of the country. An average of 11% have called it good between July 2008 and January 2012, however the last few months have seen a steady rise from the 9% who said the job market was good in October 2011, to the 14% who said so in January 2012, now 20% report these feelings in March 2012. Although the numbers are improving, a majority still says that the job market in their region is bad (56%) while 24% say it is neither good nor bad.
The improvements in the job market are encouraging, as is the belief that the job market is growing. Currently one third (33%) of Americans believe the job market in their region is going to be better over the next six months while half (50%) say it will remain the same. Only 17% think it will be worse, which is lower than the 25% who said this in July 2011 and the 21% who said so in January.
Politics and the Economy
In an election year, it’s not surprising that the economy and job market are considered political issues, and it is also not a surprise that opinions differ between Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
Currently over half of Democrats (59%) and Liberals (55%) give President Obama positive ratings on his handling of the economy while only 12% of Conservatives and 6% of Republicans do; Independents (26%) and Moderates (35%) fall somewhere in the middle. Possibly showing more faith in the current administration, almost half of Democrats say that the job market will be better in the next six months (47%) — one third (33%) of Independents agree — yet only 18% of Republicans say the same. A majority of Republicans think the job market will remain the same (55%) and over a quarter say it will get worse (27%).
Despite improvements in how Americans view the job market and expect it to change over the next six months, a majority are still concerned that their family’s income will not be enough to cover all of their costs and expenses this year.
Currently 63% of Americans say they are concerned, with 26% very concerned. This is not very different from the 62%-65% who stated concern over the past two years. Not surprisingly, the higher a person’s household income, the less likely they are to be concerned about covering their costs and expenses.
However, it is somewhat alarming that large numbers of people even in the highest income brackets — 61% of those who earn $75,000 to $99,999 and 41% of those who earn $100,000 or more — say they are concerned about meeting their costs and expenses. And, despite their differing opinions on President Obama’s role in the economy and the outlook for the job market, when Democrats and Republicans were asked about their own financial concerns the story is the same: over six in ten Democrats (61%), Republicans (63%) and Independents (65%) say they are concerned that their family’s income will not be enough to cover all of their costs and expenses this year.
The economy and unemployment have been the focus for political initiatives and public discontent for some time. However, there are some possible green shoots, in that Americans overall are feeling better about the job market and President Obama’s handling of the economy than they have indicated for many months.
However, the large number of Americans communicating concern about covering their family’s expenses is disconcerting and indicates that while we may be moving in the right direction, the country still has a way to go on the road to full economic recovery. It will be interesting to see how these issues and concerns are addressed by President Obama and his Republican opponent in the upcoming presidential election.