Perception vs. Reality

Ron Gunzburger:

Despite recent US Labor Department reports showing that nearly 1.2 million new jobs were created so far this year — indicating a likely economic recovery — American voters seem disbelieving of the news. According to a new AP/Ipsos-Public Affairs poll, 57% of Americans believe that “more jobs have been lost” during the most recent six months — while only 36% correctly said that more jobs were created. Democrats — FYI — agree that more jobs were created, but counter the reports with claims that these are largely low-paying jobs and that the number of unemployed has also increased during the same period. Other interesting numbers: 46% said they would be “less comfortable” to make a major purchase now versus six months ago (38% answered “more comfortable”); and a 56%-to-40% majority say the US is on the “wrong track.” This seemingly indicates the frequent bad news from Iraq, high gas prices, and other pessimistic stories are outweighing the perception of economic “good news” for the President. Bush will have his hands full — not by changing course — but by trying to change perceptions.

The same thing helped defeat Bush 41, who was in the midst of a 4.7% growth quarter when he was defeated in 1992. Still, this recovery has been ongoing for months; one would think perception would catch up with reality.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Maybe because of this?

    The latest data confirm our findings with a vengeance. Productivity, which accelerated in the second half of the 1990s, has sped up once again since 2000. At the same time, the unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high. The official rate, measured last month at 5.6 percent, doesn’t capture the full picture because millions of job seekers, who had given up the search due to lack of prospects, are just starting to get back in the game. If they were officially considered to be looking for work, unemployment would be over 7 percent.

    This combination of strong productivity growth and weak labor markets translates into wage stagnation for most, along with increased inequality. Full-time workers’ weekly earnings, adjusted for inflation, show a widening gap between the highest and lowest wages. For workers below the 75th percentile — those earning less than the top 25 percent are earning– real earnings grew by less than one percent. Only those at the top of the wage scale have benefited from the economic recovery, as real earnings at the 90th percentile grew 2.5 percent for men and 4.5 percent for women. These findings suggest that at least three-quarters of adult, full-time workers currently lack the bargaining power to press for a fair slice of the expanding pie. They are contributing impressively to this economy, but it is not returning the favor.

    It’s still the economy, stupid.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Much of the argument is sleight of hand. I don’t doubt that the unemployed are undercounted, but so are the employed–people working from home and so forth.

    And the wage gap data is really irrelevant. If you give me a 2% raise and give some guy across town a 100% raise, I’m up 2%, not down 98%.

  3. McGehee says:

    Ipsos/AP data may have to be suspect. According to a dissection by Blogs for Bush, they did the same thing in their poll that the L.A. Puppy Trainer did — oversampled Democrats by seven percent.

    I’ve been seeing all kinds of other figures that say people do believe in the recovery, so these numbers, given the oversample, are simply ridiculous.

  4. Hal says:

    Perception, reality – hey, most people still seem to believe that we actually found WMDs in Iraq or Saddam was behind 9/11.

    Any time y’all want to have a discussion about facts and how perception affects reality, I’m sure the liberals would love to have it.