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FOR EXPERT COMMENT: MU Political Expert Says President’s Economic Plan Will Impact 2012 Election, No Matter The Results

Sept. 15, 2011

Story Contact(s):
MU News Bureau,, 573-882-6211

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – As Congress mulls President Barack Obama’s $447 billion job-creation package sent to Capitol Hill recently, a University of Missouri expert in political science says whether Congress passes the plan or not, the plan will play a major role in the upcoming presidential election.

John R. Petrocik, MU professor and chair of political science, says public perception of President Obama’s economic plan is entirely dependent on the economy’s future performance.

“Any political observer will perceive the political aspects to the president’s proposals,” said John R. Petrocik, professor and chair of political science in the MU College of Arts and Science. “The predicted economic costs, benefits, and failures of this plan are speculative, but the plan is all the Democrats and the president need for the 2012 election campaign.”

Petrocik says the public perception of the economic plan is entirely dependent on the economy’s future performance. There are three possible political outcomes:

Economic upturn: “If the economy recovers, the president and the Democrats will have a major success to take to the voting public,” Petrocik said.

No discernible economic benefits: “If the economy doesn’t change, the president and his party can argue that they protected the public against further economic decline,” Petrocik said. “Whether or not that’s accurate will be a matter of debate, but politics often consists of talking points about issues that fortify partisans and, hopefully, mobilize the persuadable.”

Failure to pass the plan or economic decline: “If the Republicans resist, the Democrats and the president can echo President Harry S. Truman’s 1948 campaign against a ‘do-nothing’ Republican Congress,” Petrocik said. “If the economy has a further decline or stagnates – and both have been predicted for some time – you can expect the Democrats and the president to attempt to put some of the blame on the Republicans. Sharing may not be as good as all the blame, but it is something.”

Petrocik’s most recent book, Unconventional Wisdom, examines several popular myths about American voting and public opinion. He has authored or coauthored books and research articles on mass attitudes and behaviors, political parties, elections, and campaigns. His research emphasizes the social basis of politics and the influence of social divisions on electoral politics.