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The Economist Polls Economists: Advantage: Obama

Examining America's presidential candidates | Examining the candidates | The Economist

Examining America's presidential candidates: Eighty per cent of respondents and no fewer than 71% of those who do not cleave to either main party say Mr Obama has a better grasp of economics. Even among Republicans Mr Obama has the edge: 46% versus 23% say Mr Obama has the better grasp of the subject. “I take McCain’s word on this one,” comments James Harrigan at the University of Virginia....

A candidate’s economic expertise may matter rather less if he surrounds himself with clever advisers. Unfortunately for Mr McCain, 81% of all respondents reckon Mr Obama is more likely to do that; among unaffiliated respondents, 71% say so. That is despite praise across party lines for the excellent Doug Holtz-Eakin, Mr McCain’s most prominent economic adviser and a former head of the Congressional Budget Office. “Although I have tended to vote Republican,” one reply says, “the Democrats have a deep pool of talented, moderate economists.”... “John McCain has professed disdain for ‘so-called economists’, and for some the feeling has become mutual,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management. “Obama’s team is mainstream and non-ideological but extremely talented”...

[A] perception that the Republican Party under George Bush has subverted many of those ideals for ideology and political gain. Indeed, the majority of respondents rate Mr Bush’s economic record as very bad, and Republican respondents are only slightly less critical.... [R]espondents give Mr Bush a dismal average of 1.7 on our five-point scale for his economic management. Eighty-two per cent thought Mr Bush’s record was bad or very bad; only 1% thought it was very good.... [N]early every respondent viewed Mr Bush’s record unfavourably. Half of Republican respondents thought Mr Bush deserves only a 2. “The minimum rating of one severely overestimates the quality of Bush’s economic policies,” says one non-aligned economist...

On our one-to-five scale, economists on average give Mr Obama’s economic programme a 3.3 and Mr McCain’s a 2.2. Mr Obama, says Jonathan Parker, a non-aligned professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, “is a pragmatist not an ideologue. I expect Clintonian economic policies.”... Mr Obama scores better on nearly every issue: promoting fiscal discipline, energy policy, reducing the number of people without health insurance, controlling health-care costs, reforming financial regulation and boosting long-run economic growth. Twice as many economists think Mr McCain’s plan would be bad or very bad for long-run growth as Mr Obama’s. Given how much focus Mr McCain has put on his plan’s benefits for growth, this last is quite a repudiation...

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