The Campaign Spot

What’s the Deadline for Changing Perceptions of the Economy?

Earlier today, I noticed Ohio’s unemployment rate is up to 10.5 percent, jumping nearly a half a percentage point in a month, and setting up a grim outlook for 2010 for incumbent governor Ted Strickland.

Over at Third Base Politics, Jon asked a panel of prominent pollsters about how much time incumbent governors have before impressions of the economy get locked in:

I also had the opportunity to ask Peter Brown from Quinnipiac and Scott Rasmussen about an issue that’s been bugging me for awhile, and that’s this – how soon must Ohio’s economy show marked improvement in order to pull Ted Strickland out of the abyss?

In other words, if Strickland wants to win, when must we see a continuous and strong string of job growth in the state begin?

Scott Rasmussen did a great job answering the question:

Economists tell us the recession is over. 75% of voters disagree…When we interview voters, their primary gauge about how they view the national economy…is what is happening at their workforce. . . . as we sit here today, 52% of Americans say the economy is still getting worse. That’s actually an improvement from the beginning of the year. But what hasn’t improved is perceptions of their own personal finances. A majority still believe their personal finances are getting worse, and that’s unchanged.

[. . .]

When bad news comes…consumer confidence tanks immediately . . . When good news comes in, it takes a long time before people believe it. . . . there is typically one indicator that drives perceptions. . . . in 2002, 2003 it was foreign affairs, then it became jobs for a little while, then it became gas prices. . . . now, the indicator is jobs. And it’s not going to take one good jobs report. It’s going to take 6 months worth of jobs reports before people believe things are changing.

6 months. May 21st, 2010. That’s D-Day for Ted Strickland. The day the jobs report is released — five and a half months away from election day.

If a strong jobs rebound has not happened by then, Ted Strickland is in a world of hurt.

The only bit of caution I would throw in is that I suppose you could have some other non-jobs economic indicator that might mitigate people’s perceptions of how the economy is doing — really low gas prices, a stock market that’s really booming (even though the past half year has been pretty good), if somehow Ohio’s housing market saw dramatic improvements . . . of course, it’s rather tough to see some of those scenarios without a considerable improvement in the unemployment rate.

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