The nation’s unemployment rate is now 8.3%, the lowest it have been since February 2009. But it still is significantly above the 7.6% rate in January 2009, as Barack Obama was inaugurated. But this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll finds Americans viewing these changes through very partisan lenses – at some times interpreting change correctly and at other times seeing in error, but an error that fits their partisan desires.
71% of Democratic voters recognize the drop in unemployment that has occurred in the last six months, but half of Republican voters think unemployment has increased in the same time period. Less than a third of GOP voters say the unemployment rate has dropped.
But it is Republicans who know the difference between now and the time that the President was inaugurated: 85% of them believe unemployment has increased since then, while 62% of Democratic voters erroneously think it has gone down.
These kinds of partisan perceptions are common when it comes to looking ahead to the implications of election results. Republican voters say unemployment will be higher if the President is re-elected, Democrats say that a Republican victory will bring a higher jobless rate. But this poll also shows how partisans can interpret even factual information differently. 69% of GOP voters say the unemployment rate has been higher in Democratic Administrations than Republican ones. 56% of Democratic voters think the opposite. In fact, the highest unemployment rates in the last 30 years occurred under both a GOP President (Ronald Reagan) and a Democratic one (Barack Obama). The lowest rates (as low as 3.8%) fell under the Democratic Administration of Bill Clinton.