What you believe about the economy depends on who you are

August 11, 2014, 9:54 AM UTC

Bit by bit, Democrats and independents are beginning to register the slow improvement in the economy but Republicans are still gloomy about job recovery from the Great Recession

Slow economic improvements are beginning to register – but not with everyone.  In this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted after the latest jobless figures were released, more Americans now are willing to believe that the number of jobs are equal to or exceed the number of jobs existing before the Great Recession of 2008.  But the changes are coming from only part of the public.

Democrats and especially independents have improved their view of the employment situation in the last month, with independents showing the larger change. Last month, 52% of political independents believed the number of jobs was lower now than it had been before the Great Recession, and not higher.  Now, just 38% of independents say that, a drop of 14 points. The Democratic percentage saying the number pf jobs had decreased dropped five points. But the views of Republicans have changed not at all. Last month 54% of Republicans rejected the news that the number of jobs had bounced back to pre-recession levels. This month, 55% of Republicans say the same. 

Partisanship also affects the news people claim to hear about the economy. Although Americans are more likely to say they hear more negative than positive news about the state of the economy, Republicans and Democrats are hearing different things. Democrats are relatively closely divided on whether they are hearing mostly positive or mostly negative news (though the balance is more negative), while what Republicans hear is mostly negative – and by nearly five to one. 

Independents hear more negative than positive news, 36% to 15%.

Of course, Republicans and Democrats have always held very different positions about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. And those differences extend to factual questions like whether the ACA has lowered the number of uninsured.  All polls and other data suggest it has, though there are differences state by state. But partisans see this differently: two-thirds of Democrats see an increase in the percentage of people with insurance, but only one in three Republicans do. 

A plurality of Americans believe that the unemployment rate today is lower than what it was when Barack Obama took office (it was 7.8% in January 2009 and is now 6.2%): 44% believe the jobless rate is lower today, while 30% say it is higher now than it was then. Opinions of Republicans are the opposite of those of the public. By 44% to 33%, Republicans say the jobless rate is higher now.

There is hope for the future. For the next year, Americans narrowly say the jobless rate will go down. And for the next five years, the public is even more optimistic. However, on both these items, Republicans are much more pessimistic than Democrats. 

But there continue to be bad feelings for the economy overall. A third say the economy is getting worse, and only a quarter think it is improving. But those figures are better than they have been recently. And while responses on this question are also driven by partisanship, these results also reflect the underlying concerns that continue to make complete economic recovery and economic optimism so difficult for so many.

Image: PA

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.