Today’s Jobs Report: Will It Matter on Election Day?

by John Sides on October 5, 2012 · 12 comments

in Campaigns and elections,Political Economy

The jobs report is out and the numbers are, by the standards of the past few years, pretty good.  Could this help Obama on Election Day?

The shortest answer is: probably not much.  In my earlier post on late changes in the economy, I noted this line from Robert Erikson’s and Christopher Wlezien’s analysis of nearly 60 years of economic and elections data:

…one can predict that actual vote from the current income growth about as well in April as in November.  By April, the economic cake is largely baked.

Which is to say, late changes in the economy aren’t that consequential.

If this jobs report matters in any way, it is by shifting the news coverage of the campaign from “Obama bombed in the debate” to “Hey, unemployment fell!”  This report is enough of a departure from previous reports to generate some positive news coverage.  And this will help to displace the positive news coverage Romney was receiving as a consequence of his debate performance.  Given that it’s this news coverage that would boost Romney in the polls, news coverage of the job report could—conceivably, possibly, maybe—limit the boost.

All of that is somewhat speculative, of course.  We need a few more days to see how all of this will play out.

{ 12 comments }

Joe Bruns October 5, 2012 at 9:56 am

Seems to me this report is good news for Obama in the sense that it’s not bad news. After the debate debacle, the last thing he needed was a bump up in the unemployment rate. The actual job growth number, in gross terms, was pretty lackluster, but most people will focus on the rate (even though it’s less important in the short term.) Bottom line, Obama wins by not having to defend a bad number in the aftermath of his Wednesday flop.

Nadia Hassan October 5, 2012 at 11:09 am

Couldn’t news like and its emphasis in the campaign play an important role in steering voters towards the fundamentals, as they find that some effects of the economy register in the last weeks and days of the campaign?

David Parmenter October 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Surely, it helps Obama by not hurting him?

Psychologically, 7.8 is waaay easier on the psyche than 8.1.

FInally, it changes the subject off of that awful debate.

John Sides October 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm

David: That’s exactly what I said in the post.

David Parmenter October 5, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Yes, I see that. By the way, this site is fabulous, great work.

Steve October 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I beg to differ with the ““Obama bombed in the debate” remark. Just because Romney was more articulate than his usual self and didn’t put his foot in his mouth does not mean Obama “bombed”. He was the same great orator and he was the only one of the two to address the television audience by looking into the camera.

John Sides October 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Steve: The remark IS IN QUOTES. That means I am paraphrasing what other people are saying, not expressing my opinion.

LFC October 6, 2012 at 10:43 am

If Steve were more familiar with this blog he wd know that Prof. Sides never expresses his opinion in this way (e.g., ‘candidate X’s views are more sensible than Y’s’ or ‘X did better in a debate’ etc). That wd compromise the posture of objectivity and value-neutrality on which virtually all of Pr. Sides’ posts are based. (If you need a fancier label for it, Steve, try neo-positivism or something like that; it’s the creed of the large majority of academic political scientists [esp. American ones] who study contemporary US politics.)

RobW October 6, 2012 at 11:44 am

LFC’s been reading his ProfPTJ. Me thinks his penchant is really IR.

LFC October 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm

RobW:
LFC must confess to (1) possessing a Ph.D. in IR and (2) being personally acquainted with ProfPTJ, with whom he shares some views but also has a few cordial disagreements, which he will, mercifully, refrain from detailing here.

Btw, LFC has a blog but, not wanting to appear too self-aggrandizing, doesn’t always link to it when he comments. But if you want the link, RobW, let me know. ;)

LFC October 6, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Final note: I might have left the impression that neopositivism equals objectivity, which is wrong. One can assume an objective stance without being a neopositivist. (And with that, I will shut up.)

AJ October 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm

I know its not your research but how would you reconcile your conclusion with Bartel’s argument that voters are myopic giving much more weight to job and economic growth during presidential election years? Perhaps it may have some influence after all?

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