Poll finds half of country thinks nation is better off after Obama took office
A recent poll released by Gallup has found that Americans are divided about their status following President Barack Obama’s time in office. Fifty percent of respondents said they were “better off,” but the numbers changed significantly when responses are divided by party affiliation or political leaning.
Of those leaning right, only 29 percent responded that they were better off. Of those leaning left, 71 percent responded that they were better off.
Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, attributes these differences in part to the growing polarization between the two political parties over the past decade and a half.
“These past two presidencies has been wrought with polarization and extreme hatred from the out party to the president's party on both sides of the coin,” she said. “Members of Congress are now at two different ends of the poll.”
This problem is reflected in the electorate, said Najum Junaid, political director for the Rutgers College Republicans and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
“The Republican-leaning have a less favorable view because their candidate is not in office,” he said. “If there was a Republican in the White House, the numbers would probably flip.”
Junaid’s family is about the same off they were eight years ago, he said. Their economic standing remains relatively unchanged, and he believes the entire country is either in the same shape or in slightly worse shape than when Obama took office.
Six percent of total respondents and 4 percent of right-leaning respondents responded in kind, saying they were “just as well off,” according to the poll.
The country is better off following Obama’s presidency, said April Nicklaus, an unaffiliated liberal voter and a School of Biological and Environmental Sciences first-year student.
“I think that our economy has bounced back during his presidency. That's not necessarily to say that it's due to him,” she said. “But it does go to his credit that he happened to be sitting in the Oval Office while it happened.”
Standard poll questions like this one are often deliberately vague, Koning said. The intent behind the question’s ambiguity is to leave the answer up to respondent interpretation. Some may assume the question is economically rooted. Others may assume the question is focused on America’s international standing.
Despite the question’s ambiguity, both Junaid and Nicklaus answered in terms of economics when asked. Nicklaus went on to add that Obama’s policies on certain issues also led her to feel she was better off.
“I'm very fond of his strong voice on gun control, gun safety, trying to curb gun violence in the country. I think it’s absurd that we're the only industrialized nation in the world that still has a such a huge issue with it,” Nicklaus said.
In addition to being split by partisanship, the responses were divided by age.
Fifty-three percent of right-leaning respondents between the ages of 18 and 44 felt they were better off, with a 24-point spread from the right-leaning average. Left-leaning citizens in the same age group had a 7-point spread — 78 percent responded favorably.
On both sides of the aisle, responses grew less favorable as those being polled grew older. Fifteen percent of Republicans and 56 percent of democrats age 65 and older responded favorably, both lower than the party average.
The differences can be partially attributed to the lifestyle differences between older and younger adults, Koning said.
Those over the age of 45 plan for retirement and have families at higher rates than those in younger age groups. These factors combine and make older citizens less likely to say they are better off than they were eight years ago, Koning said.
Junaid attributed the split to the job market.
It is more difficult for old voters to switch fields and retrain themselves, he said. Additionally, the fields in which older voters traditionally work may no longer exist, affecting their economic outlook and making them less likely to respond favorably.
The difference in viewpoint between generations was responsible, Nicklaus said.
“I think, generally speaking, as people get older it's not uncommon to develop a more cynical view of the world,” Nicklaus said. “It’s not to say that everyone is that way, but it's certainly not a trend that surprises me.”
Nikita Biryukov is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikitabiryukov_ for more.