PRINCETON, NJ -- Democrats were less negative than either independents or Republicans about the economy in February, as has been the case since shortly after President Barack Obama took office in early 2009. Democrats' -10 reading on Gallup's Economic Confidence Index in February compares to -34 among independents and -44 among Republicans.
"Independents and Republicans also became more positive through the first part of last year, but not nearly to the same degree as Democrats."
Americans' views of the economy clearly reflect their political orientation and can vary sharply, depending on which party controls the White House. Republicans are most positive when there is a Republican president. Democrats are the most positive when the president is a Democrat.
This pattern is starkly apparent when one compares the trends in economic confidence by party identification over the past two years, spanning the transfer of the presidency from George W. Bush to Obama.
Economic confidence dropped across all three partisan groups in 2008, but Republicans remained consistently less negative than independents or Democrats throughout the year. Obama became president in late January 2009. In the following month, February, economic confidence across the three party groups equalized, a fairly rare occurrence, with each group recording confidence in a narrow range between -56 and -60. From March 2009 to the present, however, Democrats have reported significantly more positive economic confidence levels than have either independents or Republicans.
Democrats' economic confidence reached its most positive point of the last two years (-3) in August 2009, and is currently at -10. Independents and Republicans also became more positive through the first part of last year, but not nearly to the same degree as Democrats. Independents were at -31 in August and September (their most positive point during the last two years) and are at -34 today. Republicans improved to -36 in September and are at -44 today.
Overall Trends in Economic Confidence
From a broader perspective, economic confidence has been fairly stable for a number of months, after dropping from -32 in January 2008 to its low point of -60 in late 2008. Economic confidence last month (-29) is slightly more negative than it was in January and December, but slightly more positive than in November.
Americans' views of the current economy and of the economy's direction appear to reflect more than objective economic indicators such as joblessness, gross domestic product growth, and the business activity Americans see around them. Economic confidence clearly reflects political confidence as well.
Within a month or two of Obama's presidential inauguration in January 2009, Democrats became strikingly more positive about the economy, and have remained positive, on a relative basis. Republicans' economic confidence had been dropping in the waning months of the Bush administration and, although it improved modestly in the first part of 2009, has remained well below the confidence of Democrats since then. Independents' confidence was slightly more positive than Democrats' in 2008 (but well below Republicans' confidence) and has been slightly more positive than Republicans' in 2009 and 2010 (but well below Democrats' confidence).
These data show that a rising and falling tide can lift and lower all ships to some degree, given that all three partisan groups' confidence fell in 2008 and that all three increased in confidence at least slightly in 2009. The largest shifts occurred within partisan groups, however, with Republicans' confidence falling dramatically between early 2008 and January 2009, and Democrats' rising sharply in 2009 between January and the summer. The data make it clear that month-to-month shifts in confidence in the economy can reflect political factors as much as or more than economic factors.
Learn more about Gallup's economic measures.
Results for February are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 13,832 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 1-28, 2010, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones and cellular phones.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.