The Washington Post

Jobs fight gives Obama major opportunity with independents

The new CNN poll finds that a plurality of Americans supports the American Jobs Act, 43-35. As Steve Benen aptly notes, the poll also shows overwhelming majority support for the individual provisions in Obama’s jobs bill — the payroll tax cut, state aid to prevent layoffs, and investments in infrastructure.

I want to focus on the numbers among independents in this poll, because they present Obama with both a challenge and a major opportunity.

The CNN poll finds that a plurality of independents generally opposes the American Jobs Act — 39 percent are against it, and 35 percent favor it. More than one fourth of independents has no opinion.

But guess what — dig deeper into the internals and you find solid majority support among independents for the jobs bill’s actual proposals.

* Sixty five percent of independents favor extending the payroll tax cut for workers, versus only 34 percent who oppose it.

* Seventy percent of independents favor providing federal money to state governments so they can hire more teachers and first responders, versus only 28 percent who oppose it.

* Sixty three percent of independents favors increasing federal spending on building and reparing roads, bridges, and schools, versus only 37 percent who oppose this.

* Fifty-three percent of independents favor increasing federal aid to unemployed workers, versus 47 percent who oppose it.

Multiple other polls have shown that independents strongly disapprove of Obama’s performance on the economy and are highly pessimistic that Obama will be able to turn around it. But it turns out they strongly support his current proposals to do just that.

This disconnect is yet more grist for my point that Obama is bearing the brunt of public disapproval on the economy in spite of public support for his actual prescriptions to fix it. It also is a reminder that Republicans continue to benefit politically from blocking proposals that Americans say they support.

But these numbers among independents suggest that a major public campaign might be Obama’s best hope for turning this situation around. After a summer focused on deficit reduction, Obama advisers are now reported to believe that the best way to win back indepenents is to be viewed as a fighter for them on jobs.

A sizable bloc of indys remains undecided on the overall bill, suggesting real room for growth. And given that independents are very favorably disposed towards Obama’s actual proposals — even though they are sour on Obama’s economic performance generally — perhaps a sustained effort to remind independents (and Americans in general) that Republicans are the ones blocking those proposals has a chance of working. As Kevin Drum notes, this may be Obama’s best chance at breaking through the current dynamic.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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