Opinion: Social media wrap: Employment sentiment ‘bounce’ too late for Dems?

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Inveterate pollster Scott Rasmussen tweeted a surprising statistic Tuesday: The Rasmussen Employment Index jumped six points last month to a two-year high of 75.3. The index that measures worker confidence is up nine points since January and 10 points year-on-year.

It’s surprising as it flies in the face of an ABC/Washington Post poll also released Tuesday that suggests two-thirds of Americans believe the Democrats’ $787-billion stimulus bill was a waste of public money. The poll also found just 9% of Americans are happy with the current state of the economy.

So what do these apparently conflicting polls mean for Democrats’ prospects in the midterms that are now less than four weeks away, and what does it mean for the GOP, which largely has pinned its campaign on jobs and the economy (specifically, Republicans’ oft-tweeted mantra: “Where are the jobs?”)

In the Rasmussen poll, about one in five respondents report that their companies are hiring while 23% of respondents say their companies are laying off workers, but the gap between those two numbers is ...


... the smallest recorded by Rasmussen in two years.

Rasmussen’s employment index plunged from 88.1 to 72.1 from September 2008 to October 2008 following the collapse of Wall Street firm Lehman Bros. and insurance giant AIG. Since then, it’s hovered largely in the mid-50s and 60s amid gloomy economic prognoses, before its September bump.

Key to note in the ABC/Wapo poll is that although just 31% of Americans think the economy is improving, that’s an increase of seven percentage points over last month, a significant turnaround. Maybe it’s that the summer “bounce” in the economy Democrats were desperately hoping for has finally shown up.

But the answer to the polling conundrum and its effect on the midterms probably lies in this tweet by Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez, who is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committtee, and in another poll of his home state of New Jersey also released Tuesday:

#NJ laid off workers on the verge of foreclosure have been hit hard by recession. Today I announced $300 million in fed loans for them

With New Jersey’s manufacturing sector hit hard in the last two years and state unemployment hovering just under 10% this year -- and a Rutgers-Eagleton poll showing that some 32% of New Jerseyites view “jobs and the economy” as the most pressing issue -- the increase in worker sentiment still isn’t being parlayed into jobs in many pockets of the country where incumbent Democrats face tight races against the GOP and the ‘tea party.’ New Jersey already dumped an incumbent Democratic governor for a Republican last year, despite President Obama’s pleas

And with anti-incumbency feelings in the state running high -- all 13 of New Jersey’s congressional representatives are up for election in November, or eight Democrats and five Republicans -- workers that are more confident about their job prospects but still aren’t seeing evidence of hiring aren’t going to be placated with more federal loans (judging by the high levels of dissatisfaction with the stimulus and increased government spending in general).

So it’s not so much “where are the jobs?” as “when will the hiring really take off as it looks like it might?” And perhaps ‘when is the government going to stop spending?’

Unfortunately for the Democrats, neither is gonna happen in the next 27 days before the midterms.

-- Craig Howie

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Picture: Agence France-Presse