Gas prices, not jobs stats, are key numbers for voters (+video)
Gas prices and grocery bills are more likely to sway voters than the monthly jobs report, economists and pollsters say. Gas prices are nearing $4 per gallon and could be key in deciding the presidential race.
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But there is a down side. For savers and seniors on fixed-income, there are paltry payouts on balances often drawing interest of 1 percent or less. This only adds to anxiety, particularly among baby boomers and other older Americans, especially given the softness in housing prices.Skip to next paragraph
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Jabril Shaikh, 27, of Milwaukee, works at a temporary job in the legal department at a JPMorgan Chase bank. He considers himself underemployed and says he works with a lot of lawyers who are deeply in debt but are only temporary workers. "It's really sad and frustrating ... but this is all I can get right now, you know?"
Leaning toward Obama, he said the unemployment rate will be a factor in his vote for president. But he's also taking into account other social issues.
Jonathan Ketcham, an Arizona State University associate professor who studies the link between local and state economies and presidential elections, said that, contrary to what many political operatives believe, voters are actually more influenced in their presidential decision by the national economy than by state or local conditions.
"We found that, going back to 1932, a state's unemployment rate had no ability to predict voting for president," he said. Furthermore, he said, despite the GOP four-year "are you better off" question, "we found that most people only pay attention to the most recent year, not to the past four years."
He said he views this as evidence that "people are rightly holding presidents accountable for the performance of the national economy." If true, that could be an important factor in this year's swing states that will likely determine the election outcome.
They're nearly evenly divided between states with jobless rates lower than the 8.1 percent national average, such as Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, and battleground states with higher rates such as Florida, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina and Nevada.
"I think that in general, Obama's whole economic plan isn't working. Obviously people have been unemployed for a long time," said Rob Sheehy, 41, of Saukville, Wis., an information technology consultant who generally votes Republican. "I definitely do think it's time for a change and we need to try something else."