The nation’s focus is on the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, but other factors will influence the national mood and the presidential race. Among the factors that will influence voters on Election Day are Americans’ satisfaction with the state of the country, the direction they think the country is headed, unemployment and labor force participation rates, and the approval rating of the president.
At this point in 2012, 28% of Americans were satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. and 69% were dissatisfied. That compares to 17%/81% in 2008; 41%/57% in 2004; and 61%/35% in 2000. Today just 17% of Americans are satisfied and about 80% are dissatisfied.
At this point in 2012, 31% said the country was headed in the right direction while 61% said it was off on the wrong track. That compares to 16%/71% in 2008; 36%/48% in 2004; and 44%/38% in 2000. Today, just 21% say country is heading in right direction and 71% say country is off on the wrong track.
The unemployment rate was 4.9% in June 2016; 8.2% at this point in 2012; 5.6% in 2008; 5.6 in 2004; and 4% in 2000, but some argue this measure is not an accurate read of the employment. Labor force participation and the U-6 rate (the unemployed, underemployed and discouraged) are much worse today than in years past. Today, labor force participation is 62.7% (lowest since Carter’s administration) and the U-6 rate is 9.6%. In 2012, those numbers were 63.8% and 14.8%; in 2008, 66.1% and 10.1%; in 2004, 66.1% and 9.5%; and in 2000, 67.1% and 7%.
These factors normally would point to a change from the party holding the White House, but 2016 has not been a normal election year. Barack Obama’s approval today stands at 49%. He was at 46% at this point in 2012; the incumbent president was at 31% in 2008; 47% in 2004; and 57% in 2000. The victorious candidate this fall will be the one that can convince Americans he or she will be the one who is bring change and turn the country around.