Finally, a pollster asked voters the one question that matters in this presidential election: Does Barack Obama know how to fix the economy?
When the Pew Research Center asked that question in the days following Mitt Romney’s strong performance in last week’s presidential debate, a majority of the voters answered no.
The central failure of Mr. Obama’s presidency centers on his demonstrated inability to restore the economy to full health and vigor after trillions of dollars in job-stimulus spending that created few jobs but added $5 trillion to the federal debt.
Pew put the question to likely voters this way: “Do you agree or disagree with the criticism that ‘Obama doesn’t know how to turn the economy around?’”
A 54 percent majority agreed that he didn’t know how to rebuild our economy, and 44 percent disagreed.
Notably, a sizable share of swing voters, by a margin of 54 percent to 39 percent, agreed that Mr. Obama does not know how to strengthen the economy and get it back on track.
Mr. Romney “is now better regarded on most personal dimensions and on most issues than he was in September,” Pew said. He “is seen as the candidate who has new ideas and is viewed as better able than Mr. Obama to improve the jobs situation and reduce the budget deficit.”
If there was any question about Mr. Obama’s incompetence on economic policy, it was reconfirmed in Friday’s weak jobs report. The economy added 114,000 jobs in September, fewer than the 142,000 jobs in August, and fewer still than the jobs created in July.
While the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent, it did not indicate the economy suddenly was getting stronger or growing at a faster rate. A chief reason behind the rate’s decline was that the number of self-employed jumped dramatically, says business economist Peter Morici at the University of Maryland.
“With the economy growing so slowly, many of these [newly self-employed Americans] likely are workers laid off during the economic collapse who have established home-based businesses,” Mr. Morici writes in his latest analysis.
The paramount reason the unemployment rate has fallen from its 10 percent peak in October 2009 “has been accomplished through a significant drop in the percentage of adults participating in the labor force — either working or looking for work,” Mr. Morici said.
If the labor participation rate was the same today as it was four years ago, real unemployment would be 10 percent.