Okay, we now have a fourth national poll revealing this striking disconnect: Americans strongly disapprove of Obama on the economy, and are deeply pessimistic that it will get any better — even as they solidly approve of the actual fiscal policies the President is championing.
The new New York Times poll finds that Obama’s numbers on the economy are awful. Only 34 percent approve of his handling of the economy. Only 40 percent approve of his handling of jobs. Seventy two percent think the country’s on the wrong track. A plurality thinks we’re heading into another recession.
But the poll also finds that Obama’s new jobs plan, and the provisions within it, have clear public support:
* A slim plurality is very or somewhat confident that the American Jobs Act will improve the economy and create jobs, 48-47.
* A solid majority, 56-30, favors significantly cutting payroll taxes for working Americans.
* A majority, 52-40, favors Federal aid to state governments to avert public employee layoffs.
* A huge majority, 80-16, favors spending money on the nation’s infrastructure in order to try to create jobs.
* A big majority, 71, favors reducing the deficit through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts; a meager 21 percent favors only spending cuts.
* A solid majority, 56-37, favors reducing the deficit with tax hikes on households earning $250,000 a year or more.
* A solid majority, 56-29, thinks creating jobs should be prioritized over cutting spending.
What we’re seeing here, again, is more evidence that Republicans benefit from blocking policies Americans support. As long as the economy remains abysmal, the public is likely to strongly disapprove of Obama’s overall performance, even if Republicans are the ones blocking job-creation ideas the public itself thinks will reduce unemployment.
Yes, approval of the GOP is even lower than that of Obama. But let’s face it — he runs the place. If the economy doesn’t turn around, he’s likely to pay the highest political price, no matter who is to blame for government’s failure to act amid persistently high unemployment.
Is there a way out of this trap? Perhaps. As Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza noted the other day, the fact that the public still gives Obama’s individual policies high marks suggests that despite all the overall disapproval of Obama on the economy and jobs, the public is still prepared to hear him out on the topic. Even if things look very bleak right now, there’s still an opportunity for him win this battle, by getting some actual policies passed — they are popular, after all — or by driving home to the public who’s responsible for goverment paralysis in the face of the crisis.
UPDATE: Steve Benen, who’s been doing nice work documenting this disconnect, makes some important points about what it means.