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May jobs report holds little influence over electorate, poll finds

June 08, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at Production Products in St. Louis.
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt… (Evan Vucci / Associated…)

Last week’s jobs report, which revealed that the overall unemployment rate increased from 8.1% to 8.2% in May, may not have been perceived by the public as a disaster, as was initially assumed last week. In a new Gallup poll, released Thursday, nearly as many Americans described the report as “mixed” as “negative” and overall opinions on the economy failed to shift in one direction or the other.

The report, which found that the U.S. economy added only 69,000 jobs in May, far below widely reported expectations of 150,000 new jobs, also included a downward revision of April job growth from 115,000 jobs to 77,000. The small increase in the unemployment rate was the first since June 2011.

But for politicians looking to capitalize on the poor economic figures, namely Mitt Romney’s campaign, Gallup’s poll shows that furor over the jobs report isn’t quite as widespread as they would hope.

Forty-two percent of Americans classified the report as negative, which was broken down between 22% saying it was somewhat negative and 20% saying it was very negative. Forty percent, on the other hand, said the report was mixed. A scant 9% said it was positive.

The number of Americans closely following the report sat at 55%, slightly lower than the average 60% of those closely following stories tracked by Gallup over the course of 21 years. Those 55% also had a more pessimistic look at the report, with 51% calling it negative, compared to 31% of those not closely or not following the story at all.

As expected, there was a sharp divide between Republicans and Democrats over the report, with 57% of those on the right deeming it negative, compared to 28% of those on the left. Just 3% of Republicans and 15% of Democrats saw the numbers as positive.

And as for the influence the job report has had on the electorate, the number of Americans who say that the economy is getting better -- 42% -- and those who say the economy is getting worse -- 53% -- remained unchanged from the week leading up to the report’s release.

Romney, during an interview with CNBC following the report’s release, declared the figures a “harsh indictment” of Obama’s presidency, declaring, “The most significant thing we can do in the near-term is get a new president who understands what it takes to get the economy going again.”

Obama defended his policies during a campaign stop in Minnesota on the day of the jobs report’s release.

“The economy is growing again, but it's not growing as fast as we want it to grow,” he said. “And just like at this time last year, our economy is still facing some serious headwinds.”

Gallup’s poll was conducted Tuesday among a random sample of 1,007 adults with a quota of 400 cellphone and 600 landline respondents. The margin of error is plus or minus 4%.

morgan.little@latimes.com

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