When Winston asked the same question not too long ago, in November 2013, 41 percent said the policies of the past, and 49 percent said the policies of the present.
That’s a pretty significant change. Take the hot-button names out of the question, and Americans see the government’s actions today as a source of current economic woes.
“When you talk about policies, they’ve done a flip,” says Winston. “It’s the transition from President Obama being a solution to the current situation to his being part of the reason why the current situation exists.”
What accounts for the change? Perhaps Americans simply decided that a president in his second term ought to be held responsible for the economy. In addition, the dramatic failure of the Obamacare rollout appears to have hurt Obama’s image as the man in charge — not just of health care but of the entire federal government.
“Suddenly people are looking at the current situation and saying, ‘You know what? Maybe he is responsible for this,’” said Winston.
Obama’s new weakness is an obvious opportunity for Republicans going into November’s midterm elections. But it’s also a chance to misinterpret what is happening.
In 2010, when the public still blamed Bush for the economy, Republicans won a smashing midterm victory, picking up 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate. Post-election research showed the GOP won primarily because voters believed Obama, obsessed with passing his national health care bill, wasn’t paying attention to their main concern, the economy.
“People were saying, ‘You’re off on the wrong topic,’” says Winston. “But they weren’t necessarily blaming Obama for the economy.” Republicans, on the other hand, focused on the economy and had a semblance of a plan, the Pledge to America, which put job creation at the top of its priority list. The result was a big win.