Rising unemployment hurts an incumbent president’s re-election prospects. Here’s a look at the role unemployment trends have played in elections since 1980 when sitting presidents sought to stay in the White House.
Election Year Unemployment rate in November Background Result
1980 7.5 percent Unemployment rose sharply _ from 5.9 percent _ in the year leading up to the election, diminishing President Jimmy Carter’s hopes for re-election. Carter unseated by challenger Ronald Reagan, 51-41 percent.
1984 7.2 percent Unemployment was still high _ but had come down dramatically after peaking at 10.8 percent in December 1982. Reagan beat challenger Walter Mondale in a landslide, 59-41 percent.
1992 7.4 percent President George H.W. Bush looked invincible after a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraq out of Kuwait in early 1991. But rising unemployment changed everything by Election Day 1992. Bush ousted by Bill Clinton, 43-37 percent.
1996 5.4 percent A powerful economic expansion boosted Clinton’s re-election prospects. Clinton fended off challenger Bob Dole, 49-41 percent.
2004 5.4 percent A strengthening economic recovery helped President George W. Bush Bush won re-election over challenger John Kerry, 51-48 percent.
2012 7.8 percent (October 2012) A lackluster economic recovery made President Barack Obama vulnerable
but a big drop in October unemployment lifted his prospects. ???