With the economy clearly the big issue on voters’ minds, Democrats and Republicans alike are ramping up the rhetoric with only six weeks to go before critical midterm elections that will determine who controls Congress.
Yet Americans surveyed in the first of a series of ABC News/Yahoo! News polls, released early Tuesday, have a message for both sides: Many respondents — including a clear majority of independents, who have provided the critical swing votes in many recent elections — have little confidence in either party’s ability to do more for the economy.
Since Labor Day, President Barack Obama has focused intently on the economy, proposing a host of stimulus measures and warning in a series of combative speeches that a win for Republicans will mean returning to the Bush-era economic policies that the president says caused the economy to tank in the first place. (Read an ABC News story on Obama's new plan to create jobs.)
"Something that took 10 years to create is going to take a little more time to solve," Obama said at a Sept. 20 town-hall-style meeting broadcast by cable channel CNBC. Later, he said that “the most important thing we can do” to address the deficit and high unemployment is to spur growth in the economy. "What we can't do is go back to the same old things we were doing."
Republican leaders, meanwhile, continue to hammer home the message that two years of Democratic efforts to bolster the economy have failed, with little to show for the hundreds of billions of dollars spent but a soaring deficit, stagnant growth and still-sky-high joblessness.
“The American people are clamoring for a focus on jobs and righting our economy,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a Sept. 16 statement. “Instead, for two years the president and the majority in Congress have veered off to the far left and pursued their own liberal wish-list agenda.” (Watch ABC News video profile of Mitch McConnell.)
Neither side has convinced a majority of Americans. Fully 47% of those surveyed in the ABC/Yahoo! News poll say it won’t make a difference to the economy whether Democrats or Republicans are in control of Congress.
That dissatisfaction was on full display during the CNBC town hall, when Velma R. Hart described herself as “one of your middle-class Americans” took the microphone to confront the president. Saying that she is a wife, a mother, a veteran and the chief financial officer of a veterans service organization, Hart told the president: “Quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the man for change I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.”
The question drew a long response from the president, who ticked off a list of his administration's moves to help such families: lowered student loan costs, protections against abusive credit card and mortgage practices, expanded health insurance for children. “And so my goal here is not to try to convince you that everything’s where it needs to be. It's not. That's why I ran for president. But what I am saying is that we’re moving in the right direction.”