September 26, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
President Obama (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

More confirmation today that nobody cares about the deficit:

As Dave Weigel notes, Barack Obama’s approval rating on handling the deficit is terrible, despite the fact that the deficit is falling rapidly (Kevin Drum has a nice graph and useful comments; remember that 2009 means fiscal year 2009, which began in October 2008 and had a projected $1.2 trillion deficit by the time Obama took office).

Indeed, we also have a Hart/Public Opinion Strategies survey out now that finds that only 8 percent of respondents believe the budget deficit has gotten better in the last year, and 6 percent say it’s better over the last four years — against 73 percent who think it’s worse.

Again: the deficit is falling rapidly. People don’t know.

It’s possible that it’s just bad reporting, but the truth is almost certainly that people don’t know because they don’t care.

I think Weigel gets this exactly right: “Americans don’t actually know what the deficit is, conflate it with ‘debt,’ conflate it with the economy being rotten.” That’s part of it; the other part is that the out-party generally tends to beat up on the deficit, and one bias the “neutral” press allows itself is to treat deficits as inherently and objectively bad.

At any rate, the proper response to this as far as electoral politics and popularity is: Get the economy working, and people will be happier about the deficit, whatever happens to the actual deficit.