Economy plays large role in 2012 elections

Local races will be affected by unemployment, perceived recovery

By Ryan Deffenbaugh (Copy Editor ) on October 18, 2012.
Posted in News.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center revealed that the economy and jobs are the two issues that voters consistently view as most important in the upcoming election. When Oswego area voters take to the polls in November, it is likely they will be heavily considering both the state of the national and local economy before casting their ballot.

The Pew Research Poll, conducted Sept. 12-16 among 3,019 people, 2,424 of whom are registered voters, asked each participant to rate a political issue as either: very important, somewhat important, not too important or not at all important.

The economy and jobs were rated as very important by 87 and 83 percent of people polled respectively. By comparison, 55 percent of those polled rated energy as a very important issue, 46 percent for abortion and 41 percent for immigration.

The amount of people who ranked terrorism as a very important issue dropped

from 72 percent in 2008 to 60 percent this year. The energy policy has taken the largest dip in prominence among voters in the last four years. While 77 percent of voters polled in 2008 rated it as a very important issue, only 55 percent of those polled rated it the same for this election.

The issues of the economy, jobs and bud- get deficit had the least amount of change in percentage of those polled who rated it as very important, each ranking in the top five of the 12 total issues polled.

Since 2008, the Oswego economy has slowed more dramatically than on both the state and national levels. In January 2009, the Oswego unemployment rate jumped to 10.9 percent from 6.8 percent the month before, according to Department of Labor data. The unemployment rate has dipped below 9 percent only twice since then, once at 8.8 in September 2010 and bottoming out at 8.2 in October 2011. The unemployment level hit its peak in February 2011, when 12.6 percent of Oswego County residents were unemployed, the second high- est amount for a county in New York and 3.9 percent above the national average, ac- cording to New York Department of Labor data. Oswego County has had an unemployment rate higher than both the state and national level in 40 of the 46 months since January 2009.

Jeffrey Grimshaw, the director of the Office of Business and Community Relations for Oswego State said that Oswego County has traditionally had a higher unemployment rate than the state and national levels.

“There is a lot of different factors and issues that fall into place,” Grimshaw said.

“The roots of the issue come from finding employees with the right skills for the positions available.”

Grimshaw said that, while he believes the 2008 recession did not help anything, Oswego County’s problems with unemployment are rooted in issues beyond the past four years, including issues with literacy and math skills.

“Manufacturing now requires higher skills,” Grimshaw said. “It has become a challenge to find employees who have the proper skills.”

In a recent poll by the Siena College Re- search Institute, 38 percent of people polled from the Cayuga, Wayne and Oswego county areas rated jobs as the single most important issue for the upcoming election. The next closest issue was the federal bud- get deficit, which was chosen by 19 percent of those polled from the area.

When asked which candidate from the 24th Congressional District race would best address the issue of jobs, 40 percent of people polled from the Cayuga, Wayne and Oswego county areas chose Republican incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle against 36 per- cent for Democratic challenger Dan Maffei.

“If you look at the ads, Buerkle is trying to tie Maffei down to his deficit spending,”

Bruce Altschuler, a political science professor at Oswego State said. “Buerkle is saying Maffei had his chance to lower it and did not.”

Altschuler said that Maffei is trying to show that Buerkle is too strongly focused on social issues without enough emphasis on the economy.

“The focus will be on who makes economic change a priority,” Altschuler said.

When asked which candidate they would choose if the election were tomorrow, 45 per- cent those polled from the area s of Cayuga, Wayne and Oswego counties chose Buerkle, against 33 percent for Maffei, according to the Siena Research Center poll.

This is the second election that Maffei and Buerkle have squared off as the Democratic and Republican candidates for the Congressional district. In 2008, Buerkle ousted Maffei from his seat. Due to redistricting after the 2010 election, this is the first election between that two that involves Oswego in the district vote.

“Maffei’s focus will be to try to keep the vote in Oswego County close enough and minimize his losses to make up for it with other districts,” Altschuler said.

Despite presiding over the period of economic struggle for the area, President Obama is viewed favorably by 53 percent of those polled from Cayuga, Wayne and Oswego county areas. Mitt Romney was viewed favorably by only 39 percent of those polled from the area.

“Things have been so bad for so long in Central New York that it may not be tied to any one thing,” Altschuler said.

Altschuler said that Obama winning Oswego County in 2008 was a surprise victory and that he believes Obama will struggle to take the county again.

“Obama will win New York State either way,” Altschuler said. “But some of the excitement he had among Oswego voters from being a fresh face is gone.”

Obama currently holds a slim margin over Romney in the area. 53 percent of vot- ers from the three counties said that, if they had to vote tomorrow, they would choose Obama, according to the Sienna College Re- search Institute survey.

The latest Gallup pole has Obama up 6 points over Romney, while the Sienna Col- lege Research Institute poll has Buerkle and Maffei tied in the overall vote for the 24th Congressional district.