Are you better off now than you were four years ago – Michigan Consumer Sentiment edition
Updated, 5/25/12 with final 79.3 figure for May.
I touched on this a couple of months ago here. But this question is worth revisiting, and I expect to do so a few times before November. Republicans have sporadically been asking the famous Reagan question: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”
Last week the latest Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey results came out, with preliminary results for May. The metric’s level is a the highest it’s been since January 2008, which indicates that people believe they are now better off than they were four years ago. A lot better off. In the chart below, the current value is extended to October, which will be the last reading before the election.
The Michigan survey indicates that consumer sentiment has improved more in the last four years than over any such span since 1996-2000. In other words, consumers think they’re much better off than now than they thought they were four years ago.
Which doesn’t mean that consumers think things are great; the current level of 77.8 is well below the median since 1978 of 89.1. The differential reflects not that sentiment is particularly high now, but that it was at a 28-year low in late 2008. Here’s the chart of the change since January 2009:
So the appropriate Democratic strategy is not to argue that things are great now, because that would ring false. Things are not great now, but most people’s prospects are much better now than they were four years ago. This is the key for Democrats. They need to point out how much, much better the economy is today than it was four years ago.
Democrats need to force people to remember how bad things got after the last time Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress.