The unemployment rate has played a large role in this election. The Republicans have claimed that unemployment and the slow rate of economic growth are the fault of President Obama and his stimulus policies. I have indicated in an earlier post how unfair and inaccurate this claim is. But the fact is that the rate of unemployment may well play a critical role in how voters behave in the election. So lets look at ten battleground states where according to the average of polls the gap between the two candidates is under 5 % points.
State U* Jan.2009 Jan.2010 Sept.2012 Obama Romney
Florida(29) 8.7% 11.9% 8.7% 49.1% 50.4%
Ohio (18) 8.6 10.8 7.0 48.6 45.2
Pa. (20) 6.8 8.8 8.0 49.1 45.2
N.Carolina(15) 9.2 11.1 9.0 46.3 48.5
Virginia(13) 5.7 6.9 6.0 47.6 46.5
Wisconsin(10) 7.1 8.7 7.6 50.3 46.1
Colorado(9) 6.7 7.4 8.4 47.7 46.3
Nevada(6) 9.6 13.0 11.9 48.8 45.6
Iowa(6) 5.2 6.6 5.2 49.3 45.2
New Hamp.(4) 5.2 7.0 5.7 49.2 45.7
Notes: U* is the rate of unemployment given for three different dates; the beginning of Obama’s term in office, the peak of unemployment and currently. The number in brackets following the name of the state is the number of electoral college votes that state has.
What we can see is that except for Colorado, the rate of unemployment has declined significantly from its January 2010 peak in all of these states. But in comparison to the position of the state at the beginning of 2009 only Ohio is much better off than before.Hence it would be very surprising if Obama were to lose Ohio.Unemployment has now fallen to 7 % in Ohio in comparison to 8.6 % in January 2009. A number of other states like Florida, Iowa and Virginia are either at, just below or very close to their 2009 rate of unemployment. North Carolina, New Hampshire and Wisconsin are each within .7 percent of their January 2009 rate of unemployment and also more than one percentage point point below their January 2010 peak. So if improving unemployment is a major factor, other things being equal in this election these states should fall into the Obama column come election day.In Pennsylvania unemployment has fallen .8 percentage points since its peak in 2010 but it remains 1.2 % points above the rate it had in January of 2009. However, President Obama has a relatively strong lead in the polls there , 4.9 % points, so it may well also be a Democratic party win. In the end all elections are usually multi factorial but it will be interesting to see if improving employment delivers the vote on election day.