Unemployment and Reëlection
Statistician Nate Silver crunched the numbers, and found that there is no particular correlation between the change in unemployment over a President’s entire first term and his chances of reëlection to a second term. Thus, President Obama’s reëlection chances do not appear as daunting as today’s 9.1% unemployment rate suggest.
The problem with Mr. Silver’s analysis is that voters do not survey the net change over an entire term and award their vote accordingly. Rather, they consider where unemployment and the rest of the economy is heading at the time they cast their ballot. Thus, the better way of measuring the effect of unemployment on reëlection is the change from the prior high or low in unemployment during the middle of the President’s term to the unemployment on election day.
For example, among the post-WWII Presidents seeking reëlection when unemployment was above 7% on election day, Reagan won because unemployment fell by about three percent from its prior high in 1983, while Carter and Bush 41 lost because unemployment increased by about 2% from lows before the election.
The other post WWII Presidents who won reëlection to a second term all enjoyed nearly full employment on election day falling off a prior high.
Obama is unique among post WWII Presidents in that his election day unemployment rate will likely be between 8% to 9%, probably closer to 9%. The only prior 20th century President to seek a second term with unemployment so high was FDR in 1936.
FDR won because unemployment fell several percent before the 1936 election. In Obama’s case, unemployment has not actually fallen at all. The nominal drop from 10% to 9% was primarily because a couple million unemployed simply stopped looking for work and were no longer counted in the figure. Even that faux drop appears to be reversing as the early stages of stagflation appear to be throwing more folks out of work.
In sum, there are no data points for a President like Obama whose real unemployment rate flatlined at a high rate for the last three years of his first term. Even so, I doubt any President seeking reëlection since WWII would have wanted to trade places and run on Obama’s economy.
- Unemployment rate does not necessarily predict re-election chances (dailykos.com)
- Will Jobs Numbers Sink Obama in 2012? (thedailybeast.com)
- President Obama And Unemployment (alan.com)
- Economic news is bad for Obama’s reëlection bid — Washington Post (news.google.com)
- Troubling Signs for Obama’s Re-Election (politicalwire.com)
- Economic Recovery? (kajunman.wordpress.com)
About Bart DePalma (20 posts)
Bart DePalma is a solo country attorney practicing in the mountain town of Woodland Park, CO. Bart's new book "Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste - Barack Obama and the Evolution of American Socialism" is scheduled to be released during the Fall of 2011.