September 11, 2012

Record Partisan Gap in Views of Economic News

Democrats Far Less Negative than a Month Ago

Overview

With the election less than two months away, partisan differences in views of economic news have become wider than ever. Despite this month’s lackluster jobs report, there has been a modest decline in the percentage of Americans saying news about the economy is mostly bad – with virtually all of the change coming among Democrats.

Just 15% of Democrats say recent economic news is mostly bad, down from 31% a month ago and among the lowest percentages over the last four years. Six-in-ten Republicans (60%) say news about the economy is mostly bad, as do 36% of independents. Opinions among Republicans and independents are largely unchanged from a month ago.

Among the public generally, 58% say they are hearing a mix of good and bad news about the economy, while 35% say they are hearing mostly bad news and 6% mostly good news. After climbing upward over the course of the spring and summer, the share of Americans saying the economic news they are hearing is mostly bad fell six points since last month, from 41% to 35%.

However, the percentage hearing mostly bad news about gas prices has more than doubled since July. Currently, 75% say they are hearing mostly bad news about gas prices, up from 58% a month ago and just 31% in July.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 7-9 among 1,012 adults, finds that views of economic news are more negative today than in March, when 24% said they were hearing mostly bad news. But they are far more positive than they were in August 2011, when 67% said economic news was mostly bad.

Public perceptions of news about the job situation remain negative, but no more negative than during the past few months. About half (52%) say they are hearing mostly bad news about the job situation. The percentage hearing mostly bad news about jobs has been about at this level since June; in March just 38% said the news about jobs was mostly bad.

While news about gas prices is viewed more negatively, a majority of Americans (58%) also say they are hearing mostly bad news about prices for food and consumer goods. While that is little changed from August (54%), it is up 13 points since July.

However, small but growing numbers say they are hearing mostly good news about other sectors – real estate values and the financial markets. While 43% say news about real estate values has been mixed, and 32% say the news is mostly bad, 20% say it is mostly good, nearly double the percentage from a month ago (11%).

The percentage hearing mostly good news about financial markets also has increased, from 6% last month to 14% currently. About four-in-ten (41%) say news about the markets been mixed, while 37% say it has been mostly bad.

Partisan Differences Increase Sharply

Amid the nation’s financial crisis four years ago, there were virtually no differences in how Republicans, Democrats and independents viewed economic news. About eight-in-ten in each group said the news they were hearing was mostly bad.

Differences in perceptions of economic news emerged after Barack Obama took office. But they never have been as great as they are today. Four times as many Republicans as Democrats say the news they have been hearing about the economy is mostly bad (60% vs. 15%).

As in recent months, the views of independents are roughly equidistant from those of Republicans and Democrats. In the current survey, 36% of independents say they hearing mostly bad economic news, little changed from a month ago (40%).

There also are substantial differences in how Republicans and Democrats view recent news about specific economic sectors. Half or more Republicans say the news about all the sectors included in the survey has been mostly bad. For Democrats, news about only one sector – gas prices – stands out as particularly negative (65% mostly bad).

More than twice as many Republicans (75%) as Democrats (34%) say news about the job situation has been mostly bad. Democrats’ views of job news are less negative than last month, when 43% said the news was mostly bad. Opinions among Republicans (75% now mostly bad) and independents (now 54%) are largely unchanged over this period.

Cite this publication: “Record Partisan Gap in Views of Economic News.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (September 11, 2012) http://www.people-press.org/2012/09/11/record-partisan-gap-in-views-of-economic-news/, accessed on July 23, 2014.