President Obama’s senior political adviser David Plouffe said Wednesday that people won’t vote in 2012 based on the unemployment rate.
Plouffe is partially correct. It would be more accurate to say that people won’t vote in 2012 based solely on the unemployment rate.
First and foremost, most people will vote based on partisanship and ideology. Most Democrats and liberals will likely vote for Obama at a rate of 90% or more. Conversely, most Republicans and conservatives will likely vote for whoever the GOP nominee is at that same rate.
Second, political forecast models have shown that the unemployment does have an effect on the outcome of U.S. presidential elections. However, other economic factors are also important. Most serious forecasters use a combination of 1) unemployment, 2) GDP growth, 3) change in real income, and 4) personal economic perceptions to predict the outcome of presidential elections, and all have shown to exert an effect to one degree or another. (See here, here, here, and here.)
In other words, Obama should keep his eye on the unemployment rate, but also a few other significant economic indicators, as well as try to make a persuasive cases that the economy is gradually getting better, even if it’s not in excellent shape when Election Day comes around.