Steve Benen flags what seems to be a first: A poll gauging whether voters are prepared to believe that Republicans are deliberately sabotaging the recovery in order to take back the White House. With the Obama campaign and Democrats signaling that this argument will be central in 2012, this seems like a relevant question.
The poll, which surveyed Florida voters, was conducted by Suffolk University. I tracked down the poll’s internals, and here’s the relevant question:
Do you think the Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to jumpstart the economy to insure that Barack Obama is not reelected?
This is only one state, but as Steve notes, “it’s a large, diverse swing state that both parties take very seriously.” And nearly half of these voters say they believe this — even though the question is asked in a very provocative way.
Of course, the natural follow up question is important: Will this matter? The Suffolk poll contains no signs that it does. Obama’s approval is at 41 percent in this key swing state, versus 50 percent who disapprove. He’s tied with likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney, 42-42. An equal number — 29 percent — say they will vote either Democratic or Republican “no matter what,” with another 13 percent saying they will only vote Democratic if the economy gets better, meaning Dems will be held accountable.
As I’ve been saying, it’s very possible that the GOP will benefit politically from blocking Obama’s jobs policies, even though they have majority support. This new Florida poll raises another possibility: That Republicans may benefit from blocking Obama’s policies even though voters accept the idea that they’re sabotaging the economy for political reasons.
The question is this: Even if voters are persuaded that this is the case, will they chalk it up to mere politics and still hold Obama accountable for failing to get his policies through in spite of politically-motivated GOP obstructionism? Will voters who don’t grasp the realities of filibuster abuse conclude that whatever the motives of Republicans, Obama’s failure to get around them proves he’s weak or ineffective?
It’s time for some detailed national polling on these questions. They are going to be pivotal in the 2012 campaign, and they are absolutely central to understanding what’s happening in our politics right now.