By Scott Rasmussen
Still, the lows of 2012 aren’t nearly as bad as they were in the previous three years. But the trend is discouraging. It looks like yet another year starting with improved outlooks for the economy that fade by summer, and it’s clearly taking a toll on the American people.
That’s a depressing trend.
It’s especially depressing when you realize that every single night during those four years, a majority of Americans believed the country was in a recession.
Think about that. Most Americans believe we are in a recession and have been for more than four years. Despite that dismal starting point, just 40 percent think things will get better in five years.
This suggests that underlying perceptions of the economy have taken a darker turn. Back in 2009, a plurality thought the economy would be better within a year.
Now a plurality believes it will get worse over the next year. Only 14 percent now believe today’s children will be better off than their parents. That’s an all-time low.
This is the landscape for Election 2012. The economy is the big issue. People don’t like President Barack Obama’s track record, but they’re not sure Mitt Romney will do any better.
Some analysts have said it’s just like the last time we had a president running for re-election. George W. Bush’s job approval ratings at this point in 2004 were pretty similar to where Obama’s numbers are today.
However, President Bush had trends moving in his direction. The big issue was the war on terror. In the summer of 2004, just 44 percent thought the U.S. and its allies were winning that war. In the five weeks running up to the election, however, confidence that our side was winning ranged from 49 percent to 52 percent.
As confidence in Bush’s handling of the war improved, so did his job approval rating. That enabled him to post a narrow victory over Sen. John Kerry.
For this president to earn a similar victory over a wealthy Bay Stater in 2012, he will need to improve his own job approval rating between now and Election Day. For that to happen, perceptions of the economy will have to reverse their current downward trend.
Scott Rasmussen is founder and CEO of Rasmussen Reports and its polling organization.