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Could State Unemployment Rates Swing the Election?

In July, I argued that there was not any relationship between state unemployment rates and changes in Obama’s strength over the last four years. Two months later, there still isn’t a strong relationship between state unemployment rates and changes in Obama’s strength since 2008, but state unemployment rates do look like they might be moving the polls.

It looks like I managed to cut out the axis labels, so let me briefly note that the x-axis is state unemployment and the y-axis is the growth in Obama's lead in the RCP average between the RNC and last Monday.

It’s not a perfect relationship. Since last Monday, a WAA poll in Nevada shows Obama up by double digits, although a poll in Virginia also shows Obama up by 9 points. On the other hand, Obama's standing in Iowa might be suppressed by a disproportionate share of automated, party-ID fixed polls. Of course, if you use the Huffington Post's charts instead of the RCP average, the correlation completely disappears.

But the relationship is logical and consistent with the broader national trend. Obama's bounce was accompanied by a surge in optimism about the economy and the direction of the country. It's hardly unreasonable to assume that a wave of optimism would be less resonant in a hard hit area like Nevada than Ohio or Iowa.

The relationship is logical enough that I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, if for no other reason than to create an opportunity to acknowledge that I might have been wrong on this one.