There are a few data points I wanted to flag for your attention — too few to say there’s any trend, but some signs that public attitudes about the economy are shifting and that those numbers are helping the Dems.
Let’s run through a few. First are the recent polls that show the public is increasingly optimistic about the direction the economy is going in, while still thinking it sucks today. This shouldn’t surprise us. There is an increasing amount of hard data pointing to a turnaround in the economy. And there’s a conventional wisdom — of unknown origin and equally uncertain validity — that there’s a three or four month lag between the appearance of formal economic data and when those changes start to register in a significant way with the public.
Then there are signs of a shift in the president’s fortunes among independent voters — something most evidenced in the recent CBS/NYT poll but evident in other polls as well. As Taegan Goddard notes, on the particular issue of health care independents disapprove of the president’s policies by a 40% to 45% margin. But that’s compared to a 31% to 60% margin in February, just before the Democrats made their final push for reform.
And finally, there’s some evidence that the much-discussed enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans is tightening. A number of polls have shown some evidence of this. But the clearest example comes from the data series Gallup has been keeping since March 1st. Over that period the gap has ranged from the mid- to high teens. But the most recent sounding on May 1st puts the gap at 10% — interestingly as much a matter of a fall off of GOP enthusiasm as the reverse.
It’s not just a throw away remark when I say that these data points are too little to say there’s a clear trend. Just before the passage of Health Care Reform I noted that public support for reform and the congressional generic ballot were both trending in the Dems’ direction. And I expected those trends to continue and strengthen after the Dems passed Health Care Reform. Only in the short-term at least, just the opposite seemed to happen. So these are still just scatterings of data. But if the public mind shifts in a significant way on the economy between now and November that could have a big impact on the final results.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.