Public still blames Bush for recession

President Obama nicely positioned to take credit for recovery

Published October 30, 2009 3:50PM (EDT)

In the long view, how the economy is doing might matter more in shaping public opinion -- and hence, elections -- than everything else put together. Unsurprisingly, conservatives have been nattering for a while about how President Obama ought to shoulder the blame for the economy’s performance on his watch. But Republicans seem to be getting nowhere with that argument, according to a new survey from an unlikely source.

According to a Fox News poll out today, 58 percent of registered voters think President Bush is more responsible for the state of the economy; only 18 percent say President Obama is more responsible. Even Republicans only blame Obama over Bush by a feeble six-point margin, 35 to 29.

Obviously, the economy has taken a toll on the president’s popularity. Unemployment, which typically lingers even after economic growth has begun again, is likely to stick around and continue to inflict some political pain on the president and his party. But this news, along with related recent items suggests that the Obama administration might still have more room to maneuver than pundits have been saying.

Yesterday we found out that the economy was growing again, with GDP up by 3.5 percent in the third quarter after having been on the downswing for months. Clearly, it would have been hard to ride out that decline politically, and reach the beginning of a turnaround, without the public opinion latitude that today’s poll implies. Now the president is nicely positioned to scoop up the credit for a recovery while the public continues to blame his predecessor for the original problem.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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2010 Elections 2012 Elections Barack Obama George W. Bush Great Recession War Room