The Michelle Obama morale boost

Confidence in the U.S. economy spiked right after the first lady's convention speech

Published September 11, 2012 3:11PM (EDT)

When Michelle Obama talks, Americans feel better.

On Tuesday Gallup reported that the "U.S. Gallup Economic Confidence Index" jumped 11 points during the week of the Democratic National Convention.

The jump was the sharpest since the inception of the index and marks the high point for 2012. And it's a puzzler. One might expect that after Bill Clinton's speech, Americans would be more inclined to blame Republicans for the mess we're still in. But to be more confident about their own prospects? That's peculiar. And it's all the more befuddling because the week finished with a disappointing labor report. There's no objective, quantifiable reason why Americans should have ended last week considerably more optimistic about the economy than they began it.

Except, perhaps, that speech by the first lady?

It appears that the spark for the dramatic rise in Americans' economic confidence last week was the Democratic National Convention. A review of Gallup's nightly tracking results shows that the index was consistently near or below -25 each night in late August and early September, but then sharply improved on Sept. 4, the first night of the convention, to -18.

Confidence then held at or near -18 through Sunday, despite the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' mixed August unemployment report Friday morning showing continued weak jobs growth.

The crazy thing is, Michelle Obama didn't really address the state of the economy, other than to express her profound faith that her husband was going to keep plugging away in his attempts to fix things up.

Suddenly, after all these years, I understand the American love affair with Ronald Reagan a lot better. He stood up there, flashed his pearly whites, and told us it was "morning in America" again, and an impressive majority of Americans believed him. The first lady appears to have the same transformative power. Something tells me swing state residents are going to be seeing an awful lot of her over the next eight weeks.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Democratic National Convention Michelle Obama U.s. Economy