Got To Admit It’s Getting Better: Public Turning Around On Economy

The American people have found the floor in the recession, and are starting to feel things are looking up in the economy. That’s the message from several recent polls of the economy taken in the past several weeks.

The public is still pretty down on things overall, but the important thing — for Democrats facing reelection especially — is that they’ve stopped feeling that things are getting worse. A growing number are even saying things are getting better.

The big question now is whether this boost will sustained over time, and whether the Democrats will be able to make it their own.Objective measures, of course, have shown things are improving after the worst economic crisis in decades. Public polling is now showing that people are starting to take notice.

A rundown of the latest polls:

• The CBS/New York Times poll shows the most obvious improvement, with optimism about the economy at 41%, up eight points from last month. Obama’s approval on the economy from independents is also narrowly in positive territory at 46%-45%, after independents disapproved of his economic performance last month.

• In a late April ABC/Washington Post poll, Obama’s approval on the economy was improving from a slight dip — to 49%-49%, up from 45%-52% in March, 45%-53% in February, and 47%-52% in January. In addition, 39% said that Obama’s economic policies had made the economy better, with 26% saying he had made things worse, compared to 35%-23% in January.

• The Pew poll in April showed a similar picture, with a slight improvement to a bad picture. The poll showed 49% saying the economy was “poor,” but this was down from 53% going back to February. In addition, 11% said the economy was “good,” the first time this number had seen double-digits since early 2008.

• In the recent Democracy Corps (D) poll, the “wrong track” number has declined from 62% in March to 57% in April. In addition, 45% say the economy is improving, up from 38% in March. In addition, respondents’ assessments of their own personal economic situations improved for the first time since this question began last summer.

At the same time, though, Democracy Corps cautions: “While there is a lot of churning on the economy, it has not translated at all into political judgments…Obama’s approval rating on the economy is about the same as it was in February. When evaluating which party could do a better job handling a variety of economic issues the Democrats continue to match-up terribly.”

Messaging plays a part, of course. Democrats need to highlight the rising economic sentiment and make it their own in order for it to help them down the road. There’s data that suggests the public is willing to listen: even after a year of Obama — and the passage of the largest economic stimulus package in American history by the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress — the public still considers President Bush more responsible for the bad economy than Obama.

Fifty-nine percent in the Washington Post/ABC poll said Bush was responsible for the current economic conditions, while just 25% said Obama was. That number is backed up by a Gallup poll from late March showing that 75% say Bush bears a “great deal” or “moderate amount” of the responsibility for the current economy. Fifty percent said the same thing about Obama.

It’s still a great time to be a Republican and, today, 2010 still looks like bad year for Democrats. But in light of the uptick in the economic polling data, and the continued blame leveled at Bush for the recession, Democrats may have found their silver lining.