Worth Discussing

"Go Ask Osama"...about the Economy?

Luke Frans | October 19, 2011

On "Morning Joe" David Axelrod cited the killing of Osama bin Laden to make the case that President Obama is qualified to lead the country (watch the video here). Resurgent Republic's research has shown that while voters of all partisan groups credit President Obama for killing Osama bin Laden, this event falls well short of closing the deficit Obama faces on his handling of the economy. In fact in our most recent national survey, six in ten voters believed President Obama has turned out to be a weaker leader than they expected.

As Joe Scarbourough acknowledged, this was a good retort by Axelrod. Voters, however, are more focused on domestic issues and this rebuttal does little to ease the growing concerns voters hold on the economy and the direction of the country. More noteworthy are the arguments that were absent, such as touting the stimulus, consumer confidence or the unemployment rate. Additional findings from our national survey and focus groups include:

  • 60 percent of voters believe Obama has turned out to be a weaker leader than expected (65 to 24 percent among Independents). The troubling news for Obama doesn't end there. Voters are more likely to say Obama has been "much weaker" than "much stronger" (33 to 13 percent overall and 36 to 7 percent among Independents). 

  • By 57 to 41 percent, voters disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy. Obama has yet to win back the center on the issue that is likely to dominate the 2012 campaign as swing voters disapprove on this question 63 to 34 percent. Once again Obama is on the wrong side of the intensity gap since wide margins favor "strongly disapprove" (45 to 18 percent overall and 48 to 10 percent among Independents).

  • Voters believe that Obama's policies have made things worse for most Americans (50 to 40 percent overall and 57 to 30 percent among Independents). Those who say "much worse" greatly outnumber those who believe his policies have made things "much better" (32 to 13 percent overall and 33 to 6 percent among Independents).

  • "Voters give Obama credit for killing Osama bin Laden, but that event did not bolster his leadership standing on domestic issues." Focus Group Memo, July 8, 2011

Critiques of President Obama’s leadership have moved beyond the Republican base and resonate among the Independents in our groups. 

“He’s voiced leadership, he just hasn’t shown it,” said one senior Independent female in Florida. The theme that President Obama needs to “follow through” on his rhetoric was common in both Independent groups. President Obama’s strength of being an effective communicator has the potential of reinforcing voters’ appetite for more than rhetoric. Participants could not name an economic accomplishment and did not believe President Obama has a plan to create jobs or to solve the financial problems of Medicare. Voters give President Obama credit for killing Osama bin Laden, but that event did not bolster his leadership standing on domestic issues. 

Following our State of the Union dial test and focus group in Ohio, we noted that before President Obama can make any permanent gains among Independents, “swing voters will want to see a tangible policy shift implemented.” That analysis is just as relevant six months later. The challenge for those who oppose President Obama’s policies is how to move these Independents from skeptical to negative, or in other words, from seeing Obama as failing to lead to leading in the wrong direction. If these Independents remain skeptical, however, their interest in the national debate could decrease to the point that some neglect to turnout next November.

Filed under: Free Market Economy, Obama Approval Rating, News, and 2012 Election