A few weeks ago I wrote noted that the GOP’s favorite new line of attack was to blame high gas prices on President Obama. In the last few days, there have been two big developments that indicate this will only increase:
- The Koch-Industries-funded Americans for Prosperity launched a campaign specifically designed to blame President Obama for high gas prices. ““We want to link the regulatory policies of this administration to the fact that these prices are going up,” said AFP President Tim Phillips told Politico’s Ben Smith.
- On Wednesday in Vienna, OPEC’s oil ministers failed to reach an agreement on production quotas, the first time that has happened in 20 years. Many had hoped that increased OPEC production would help bring prices down in the near term. House Republicans seized on the news immediately, introducing a bill that would require the federal government to hold annual lease sales in Alaska’s Natural Petroleum Reserve.
The current Republican strategy is to blame President Obama for high gas prices by saying that his policies discourage domestic production. There’s just one small problem: the whole strategy is based on a lie. Domestic production (XLS) declined each year under President Bush, falling a total of 15% in his eight years in offce, and domestic production has increased 11% since Obama came into office. Here’s what that looks like:
As the chart above shows, if the Republican/AFP argument for blaming President Obama for high gas prices is based on the idea that he has somehow discouraged domestic production, their argument is at odds with reality.
The question is, will it work? I think it depends on how the media portrays the debate. Unfortunately, if history is any guide, a vast majority of media outlets will fail to point out that the Republican argument is based on a falsehood. As the GOP push on this continues, I’ll be monitoring both the media coverage of this and the polling, to see if the press is doing its job and to gauge whether the GOP efforts are working.
According to Gallup’s Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport, oil and gas companies traditionally receive the blame. “Throughout history, people always blame the oil and gas companies. That’s not new,” he said.
And based on all of the recent polls on this I’ve been able to find, that seems to be holding true:
- From April 29-May 1, CNN asked (PDF) Americans: “Please tell me whether you think each of the following deserves a great deal of blame, some blame, not much blame, or no blame at all for the recent increase in gas prices.” Here is who they blamed the most, based on combined totals for “great deal of blame” and “some blame.” Speculators (90%), oil companies (88%), Foreign countries that produce oil (81%), Unrest in the Middle East (80%), Policies of Republicans in Congress (66%), Policies of the Obama Administration (61%), Environmental regulations (61%).
- From May 8-12, Politico and George Washington University asked (PDF) likely voters: “Who or what do you think is most to blame for the recent spike in gas prices?” Respondents were only allowed to assign blame to one entity in this poll, and here’s who they blamed: Oil ans gas companies (38%), Oil exporting nations (22%), The Obama Administration (12%), The Economic cycle (11%), Congress (7%).
- From May 9-16, Harris Interactive asked Americans: “In your opinion, who can best stop rising gasoline prices?” While 34% said the oil and gas industry, another 28% said the federal government. Due to how Harris worded the poll, we don’t know how many of those 28% were referring to the president and how many were referring to Congress. Another 19% said consumers.
As of early May, most Americans blamed three entities for high gas prices: oil and gas companies, speculators and oil exporting nations. Only time will tell whether the GOP’s efforts to shift blame to President Obama will move public opinion.
Update — Brian Merchant adds:
It’s heartening to know that most Americans understand that even the President of the United States can’t single-handedly dictate gas prices. Now, if only they’d understand that the real reason costs are rising in the long run is increasing global demand and thinning global supply, we’d really be getting somewhere.
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