(Reuters) – As consumers get some welcome relief from painful gasoline prices heading into the Fourth of July holiday, President Barack Obama’s approval ratings on his handling of the economy have also taken a dip for the same reason: worsening economic conditions.
Just 33 percent of Americans now believe the president is doing a “good” or “excellent” job when it comes to the economy, according to a Rasmussen poll.
That’s down from 41 percent at the beginning of May, which could be yet another sign that the president’s re-election chances are tied more to the economy than to any other political issue.
“This election is more than just a referendum on President Obama. It is a referendum on his handling of the economy,” declares Political analyst and Democratic pollster Doug Schoen in an exclusive interview with Newsmax on Friday.
InsiderAdvantage head and pollster Matt Towery agrees with Schoen’s assessment. “Regardless of what poll you’re looking at the president’s not doing well in the economy in terms of just dealing with the economy.”
While falling gas prices appear to be a positive, they are yet another reflection of the difficult global economy, according to Rayola Dougher, a senior economic adviser at the American Petroleum Institute (API) in Washington, D.C.
“What’s happened is much more anemic economic growth than we anticipated — not only in the United States, but most especially in Europe and even in China to some extent,” she tells Newsmax. “So as we’re heading into the second half of this year, we’re having less demand than some had expected, but meanwhile supply is still adequate — more than adequate. Inventories are starting to build. So that price of crude has come down.”
As a result, gasoline prices declined 6 cents this week nationwide, to settle at $3.47 per gallon. Experts say lower crude oil prices and economic concerns have contributed to the decline in retail gasoline prices for several months.
“Gas prices are the political football of the world and they generally never mean anything,” said Towery. “What they’re concerned about is people don’t have any money in their pocket.”
Voters do not have to look hard to see the signs of a worsening economy. Moody’s Investors Service has lowered the credit ratings on some of the world’s biggest banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, reflecting concern over their exposure to the violent swings in global financial markets.
The downgrades late Thursday ultimately are a measure of Moody’s view on the ability of the banks to repay their debts. The ratings agency also cut its ratings on Barclays, Deutsche Bank and HSBC, some of the largest banks in Europe, a region fighting to contain a government debt crisis.
U.S. manufacturing grew at its slowest pace in 11 months in June and the number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment aid fell only slightly last week.
“With more than 8 percent out of work and an equal number under employed or discouraged workers, the American people are hurting and the fall in president Obama’s approval rating, vote share, and ratings on the economy reflect just that,” Schoen explained.
Most Americans already believe that the U.S. is in a recession, observed Towery.
“People don’t have any money in their pocket and they can’t borrow any money. They don’t qualify for loans,” he said. “The banks will only loan to people who have money in the first place and so we are basically at a complete stalemate in terms of our economy. There’s nothing that anyone can think of that will spur it to go forward.”
Towery acknowledges that the president’s handling of the economy will largely determine his re-election chances.
“I don’t think they expected to see unemployment increase, which basically it has. It certainly hasn’t decreased,” observed Towery. “And I don’t think they also expected that there would be this stagnant sort of situation where not only are things not moving here in the U.S. but all over the world.”
If the election were about personality, Obama would be feeling better about his re-election prospects, said Schoen, adding that the president is extremely likeable.
“If the election were a personality contest there’s every reason to believe president Obama would have a very good chance of getting re-elected, but since it’s a referendum on the economy it makes for a much more difficult and uphill climb for President Obama than anyone would have expected just a few short months ago,” Schoen said.