Poll Numbers That Do and Don’t Matter

Ezra Klein offers a closer look at today’s new ABC/WaPo poll, and notes two bright signs for Democrats amidst the gloom:

There is some good news in the poll for Democrats. For one thing, the Affordable Care Act’s popularity has rebounded a bit. In November, 57 percent opposed the health law while only 40 percent supported it. Now, however, 49 percent oppose it and 46 percent support it. Being slightly unpopular is a long shot better than being wildly unpopular.

The best news for Democrats in 2014 isn’t political at all. Fifty-nine percent say the economy is recovering, while only 39 percent say it isn’t. That’s the most confident Americans have been in the recovery since at least 2009. In December 2010, for instance, 41 percent thought the recovery had begun, while 57 percent said it hadn’t even started. Since growing economies tend to benefit the party that controls the White House, that’s very good news for Democrats looking to avoid a repeat of 2010 — particularly if HealthCare.Gov’s improvements continue and Obama is able to rebuild his standing among voters.

I’m not all that sure the first number really does matter a lot, since perceptions of Obamacare are going to follow how well it works.

But the economic optimism could be a really big deal politically. You can certainly argue that the recovery from the Great Recession was just strong enough to make Obama’s 2012 victory possible. If the economy is perceived as doing even better, then that will indeed help Democrats tangibly in 2014, though there are other differences between midterm and presidential years, as regular readers here must surely know by now, that make any Democratic political optimism a bit of a stretch.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.