WASHINGTON -— We’ve speculated plenty about how political dramas like the shutdown and Obamacare could impact 2014. The parties seem to think they’ll be big, and the Republicans certainly look like they’re gearing up to run hard against Obamacare, again, in House and Senate races.
But I was reminded, as the jobs numbers came in, that voters always say the economy is their top concern. (They did in 2012; in 2010; in ‘08…) That’s nuanced because big tilts like the ones we’ve watched this fall do invariably get blended into party images, and those matter. But if you had to wager based on history, would you bet the biggest factor for next year is Obamacare; or the budget… or simply whether or not people think the economy is improving?
So far, they haven’t. This is a look at what people have said about the economy recently across swing House districts – those are districts that have fairly even partisan within +/- 5 points – in our most recent CBS News polls for October and November combined. Leave aside the national numbers for a second; these are the kinds of places it’ll matter most. In these districts the percent that says the economy is getting worse has far outnumbered the percent that says getting better, and the percent that says just staying the same.
That’s a little tougher outlook in close districts than across the nation as a whole from the latest poll, where 41 percent said it was staying the same and 33 percent said worse. But in either case, only about one-quarter thought it was getting better.
To be fair, there is always a partisan component to this. Voters whose party is in power tend to be more upbeat about national metrics; those out of power more negative, whatever the numbers. This table shows how the economy is seen in high-Republican districts – where there are of course more Republicans, and more people say it is worse – and in high-Democratic districts, where the economy is rated more favorably. But the swing districts, many of which will determine control next year, have not shared the same outlook as the Democratic ones.
Democrats will need those perceptions to turn around if they’re going to make any run at the House. (And for context, the Republicans start with a large structural edge to keep House control, anyway.) The latest unemployment figures show a drop, and historically we might expect views on the overall economy to improve if that trend continues. But that’s an if, and a key - probably, the key - measure to watch in the coming months.
Click here to read more at CBSNews.com.