So who thinks Obama is helping the economy?

at 04:06 PM ET, 09/08/2011

The new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows just 17 percent of Americans believe President Obama’s economic policies have made the economy better. Twice as many say he’s made things worse.

So just who is that 17 percent?

A review of the poll guts — poll guts are the best kind of guts — reveals that they are disproportionately young, non-white, hold advanced degrees, come from the Northeast, and strongly oppose the Tea Party.

In other words, the classic image of a liberal Democrat — and about the last demographic that Obama should (or maybe could) ever lose.

What that means in practical political terms is that Obama’s jobs speech tonight will have to convince the more middle-of-the-road constituencies who have begun deserting him in recent months that he has an economic plan that can and will work.

Let’s dig into the numbers.

The question the new Post/ABC poll asked is whether Obama has made the economy better, worse, or has had no effect.

Non-whites are still very much on-board with what Obama has done on the economy. Of that group, 36 percent say Obama has made things better, while just 21 percent say he has made things worse. (The New Ledger’s Ben Domenech has put together some great bar graphs to illustrate this and the other numbers below.)

Only slightly more people under 30 years old say he has hurt the economy than say he has helped it, 27 percent to 22 percent. Half say he has had no effect. That makes it Obama’s best age demographic on the economy — even as its overall approval of the president has dipped below 50 percent for the first time.

Among those with post-graduate degrees, 25 percent say both that he has made things better and made things worse. And Northeasterners are evenly divided as well, with 21 percent saying he’s made things better and 22 percent saying he’s made them worse.

Perhaps most interesting, though, are the tea party numbers.

Of those who strongly support the tea party, 75 percent think Obama has made things worse, while those who strongly oppose the tea party say he has either made things better (35 percent) or had no effect (54 percent). Only 8 percent of strong tea party opponents say Obama has made things worse.

These are all groups that Obama can’t afford to lose. They effectively represent the base of his base, and it’s little surprise that they would still believe what he’s doing is right. Even they, though, are struggling to find the good news in the continued economic troubles with many of them choosing the “no effect” option.

So what about the flipside? Who feels the most negatively about Obama’s handling of the economy?

White people, the Midwest, the middle class, 30-somethings and independents. Only 11 percent of whites say Obama has made things better with the nation’s economy. The Midwest is every bit as harsh as the South when it comes to critiquing Obama with both showing 38 percent saying he has made things worse.

How President Obama does among those harder-to-reach groups will be more instructive of his political prospects going forward — particularly given that the Midwest is shaping up to be a central battleground of the 2012 general election.

 
Read what others are saying