Here’s a striking disconnect that speaks volumes about Obama’s political problem right now: In the new NBC/WSJ poll, Americans express strong disapproval of Obama’s performance on the economy, and express low confidence that Obama has the right set of ideas to improve it.
And then, later in the very same poll, Americans are asked whether they support a range of Obama’s actual fiscal and economic policies. In every case, a majority or plurality supports them.
It’s true. The poll finds that only 37 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, versus 59 percent who disapprove. It also finds that only 31 percent are “extremely confident” or “quite confident” that the President has the right goals and policies to improve the economy, versus a whopping 68 percent who are only somewhat or not at all confident.
But then the pollsters ask about the policies themselves. And here’s what they find:
— A solid majority (60 percent) supports reducing the deficit by ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
— A solid majority (56 percent) supports reducing the deficit through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts.
— Only 37 percent support the GOP’s solution to the deficit, i.e., reducing it only through spending cuts with no tax hikes on the rich or corporations.
— A plurality supports a federally funded roads construction bill to create jobs, 47-26, which is similar to what Obama is expected to propose in his jobs speech.
— A plurality supports continuing to extend unemployment benefits, 44-39.
— A plurality supports an extension of the payroll tax cut, 40-20.
As Steve Benen notes, this bodes well for public acceptance of Obama’s jobs speech on Thursday. After all, it would appear possible that disapproval of Obama on the economy is a referendum on the actual state of the economy, rather than on Obama’s suggested current policies for fixing it. While it’s true that the public remains skeptical of Obama’s number one solution to the economy — the stimulus — the public is clearly receptive to the current, unimplemented solutions Obama is championing, even though the same public generally disapproves of Obama’s economic performance.
The challenge Obama faces with his jobs speech and the fall offensive that will follow is this: Close that disconnect, and make it clear to the public that Republicans are the reason those policies are not being implemented.
Of course, if Obama’s speech and jobs offensive fail, we could see a deeply perverse outcome. If Obama’s policies aren’t implemented, and unemployment doesn’t show even marginal improvement, and Obama’s overall economic approval numbers remain in the toilet, Republicans could end up politically benefitting from successfully styming individual policies the American people say they want.