What can the economy and the swing states tell us about the upcoming election?
The swing states, such as Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania always decide an election; with a Presidential candidate always needing to gain control of these states if they want to win the election and gain control of the White House for the next four years. The next election will also come down to these states, with many commentators suggesting that Romney will need to take advantage of the poor economic situation in the hope of convincing these voters to support him if he wants to win. Data released by USA Today/Gallup from a survey of voters in these crucial states has shed some light on both candidates chances in the upcoming election. The survey asked if the voters thought that they personally better off than they were four years ago, and the results show yet again that this election might not follow a predictable pattern.
Usually, a President hasn’t been re-elected with an unemployment rate above 8%, and with the rate currently sitting at 8.2%, you could say that it’s likely that Obama will probably lose his bid for re-election as well. However, time and time again data has shown that despite the unemployment rate, voters aren’t moving away from Obama as the previous trends might suggest. This isn’t to say that the economy isn’t important to American voters, because it is; it was recently voted the single biggest issue in the election, but instead, it suggests that people’s views of who is to blame for the recent mess is far more important. For example, if people don’t blame Obama, the poor unemployment figures are less likely to lead to people moving towards Romney.
The USA Today poll shows exactly that. With 56% of voters in the swing states suggesting that they aren’t better off than four years ago, so you would think that this doesn’t bode well for the President’s prospects. However, the poll also asked voters who they thought was to blame for the issues. 20% of those asked believe that Obama is to blame for the issues, while a similar number believe that Obama has nothing to do with the issues. This is good for Obama, as it means that even though individual voters might not be happy, they aren’t switching away from him, so although the economy is a vital issue, the current situation isn’t as important to the election as it could be. Instead, issues such as the future of the economy and the Budget will be much more significant.
You also have to look at the issues affecting both the national and local pictures. When selecting the President, voters tend to look at the national economy, which incidentally, is doing much better than most of the local economies in the swing states. This can be seen in poll data, with Nevada and Virginia showing that it is difficult to predict a Presidential Race from economic data alone. Voters in Nevada, with the highest unemployment rate in the whole country; currently at 12%; would be expected to be supporting Romney at the next election, but that isn’t the case, with a clear lead for Obama. On the other hand, Virginia, with one of the lowest unemployment rates; currently at 5.9%; would be expected to be an easy win for Obama. However, it’s very close, with little between the two candidates.
Looking at the national pictures, luckily for the President, although the economy might not be doing as well as people predicted it could do, it has still being growing, albeit sluggishly. This in many people’s eyes, is something respectable, and with the Europe crisis and everything else going on, is still not as bad as it could be. Low growth is still growth, and much better than the alternative; no growth at all.
Therefore, although it might be easy to predict the next election from economic data alone, it’s far from easy. With the economy the way it is, you could expect many to be voting Romney at the next election, but data has shown that it is simply not the case, because many don’t blame Obama for the mess. It’s also important to note that the US economy is growing, and the situation could be far worse. So, although the economy is the single biggest issue for American voters, it could be the future plans and the all important budget that will decide the next election and not the current situation as many have predicted.