On Politics On PoliticsOn Politics
Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Pumped Up?

ARCHIVES
Few would dispute that if gasoline prices go substantially higher and remain there for a sustained period, they will hurt President Bush and damage his party in the midterm elections.

But how much have near-record gasoline prices hurt the Republicans so far? A clue might be found in the results of the latest Cook Political Report/RT Strategies national survey, conducted April 27-30 among 1,003 adults, 89 percent of whom were registered voters.

RT Strategies pollster Thom Riehle argues that voters who say that the issue most important to them is the price of gasoline are not, in fact, "particularly motivated, and their association with the issue does not seem to make their views different from the mix of views you'd get from any randomly selected group of voters. That suggests that [high] gas prices may make people angry, fearful, or cynical, but do not make them Democratic or Republican loyalists, and do not drive them to the polls.... It would be very difficult for either party at this time to build a political case around gas prices."

Riehle and his partner, Lance Tarrance, asked respondents to name which of seven issues will be most important to them in deciding how to vote for Congress in the midterms -- in much the way exit polls ask voters what issue most influenced their decision. The top response was jobs and the economy with 19 percent, followed by the war in Iraq with 16 percent.

There was essentially a four-way tie for third place, with gasoline prices, immigration, and health care at 12 percent each and education at 11 percent. Terrorism trailed with 7 percent. (Other issues and "don't know" received a combined 12 percent.)

But among respondents who seem most likely to vote, the 54 percent who rated their interest in the upcoming election as either a 9 or a 10 -- on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being highest -- gasoline prices came in dead last of the seven issues.

Interestingly, 65 percent of respondents who cited terrorism as their top concern said they are highly motivated to vote, as did 62 percent of those who chose Iraq, 58 percent of those who cited immigration, and 57 percent of those who picked health care. Bringing up the rear were the jobs/economy voters at 51 percent, the education voters at 50 percent, and the gasoline-price voters at just 39 percent.

What's more, gasoline voters don't sound much different from other respondents. The survey showed that 49 percent of registered voters say they favor Democrats' controlling Congress after this midterm election while just 37 percent favor GOP control, a 12-point Democratic edge. Republicans had a 60-point advantage among terrorism voters while Democrats had a 43-point advantage among Iraq voters, a 29-point advantage among education voters, a 24-point advantage among jobs/economy voters, and a 19-point edge among health care voters.

Republicans had a 16-point advantage with immigration voters. But among gasoline voters, the Democratic advantage was 10 points, 48 percent to 38 percent, almost mirroring the overall number. In other words, gasoline prices didn't seem to make a lot of difference.

Now these data only tell us about the situation as of a week ago. They may or may not tell us much about the future. Taking inflation into account, gasoline prices would have to average $3.18 in today's dollars to set a record. And we're not there yet.

As a share of personal disposable income, the price of a gallon of gas in March was just over 0.30 percent, according to Tom Gallagher, a D.C.-based political economist with International Strategy and Investment, a firm that advises Wall Street clients on economics, policy, and politics. That compares with 0.24 of a percentage point back in November 2004.

What price would gasoline have to hit to upset voters enough for them to respond differently from what we've seen so far? No one knows. But, obviously, the political impact of this issue is more complicated than some observers seem to think.

 
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.