Public Mostly Holds Republicans Responsible for Recession, But Democrats Now Catching More Blame

One reason that Barack Obama has stayed in pretty good political shape despite a terrible economic situation is that the public has consistently recalled that this recession began under George W Bush and reached its highest point of crisis under Bush. But as horrible labor market conditions persist, it’s natural that Democrats are attracting more and more ire:


A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Friday morning indicates that 38 percent of the public blames Republicans for the country’s current economic problems. In May, 53 percent blamed the GOP. According to the poll, 27 percent now blame the Democrats for the recession, up 6 points from May, and 27 percent now say both parties are responsible.

I’ll just note that this highlights one important respect in which the filibuster undermines democratic accountability. It’s a good thing for the public to hold Democrats responsible for results even if the problems the Democrats are dealing with began under GOP rule. That instinct creates appropriate incentives for incumbent politicians to focus on solving problems rather than on allocating blame. But giving defeated electoral minorities veto power over large elements of national policy tends to undermine this dynamic. What’s wanted is an opportunity for the Obama administration to take its best shot at fixing the economy, followed by an “accountability moment” in which failure is decisively punished. Instead, especially if the GOP picks up two or three Senate seats in 2010, we’re likely to get a muddle that refocuses politics on blame-shifting efforts.