GOP pollster Winston: 'Better off now?' may not be the right question for 2012
By ALEXANDER BURNS |
9/24/12 1:17 PM EDT
Are Americans better off now than they were four years ago?
And how many people are really going to decide their 2012 vote on that question?
The second question is the key point raised in a new poll from the Winston Group, the GOP polling firm headed by David Winston.
Republicans focused much of their Tampa convention messaging on the argument that the country isn’t better off than it was at the start of President Barack Obama’s term. In a new Winston Group poll, most Americans agreed with that assessment: 39 percent of respondents said they are worse off than they were four years ago, 33 percent said they are better off and 27 percent said things are “about the same.”
But the same poll shows that isn’t necessarily the decisive question in determining how Americans will vote. The Winston poll asked respondents which question is more important in deciding their vote: “whether you were better off than you were four years ago” or “whether you believe things will get better in the future.”
Only 18 percent chose the backward-looking, better-off-now option. Seventy-seven percent said they’re more focused on the future.
Based on those results, Winston said he was skeptical that the better-off-now argument would swing the 2012 campaign: “While it’s an interesting question, it’s not what [voters] are thinking about. What they’re saying is, where are we at now as a result of these policies, and given the track record, where is that likely to take us?”
The pollster, who advises House GOP leadership, likened the debate over the economy to a squabble over a house fire. One candidate says “he started it” another says “he made it worse.”
“Interesting discussion, but what [voters] really want to know is, who’s going to put the fire out?” Winston said. “They want the focus to be on putting the fire out.”
The Winston survey found the presidential race close – Obama 48, Romney 46 – and had Republicans and Democrats tied at 46 percent on the generic congressional ballot. That’s an imperfect test of the battle for House control, since congressional maps do not mirror the national political mood.