If the 2012 U.S. presidential election were held today, in mid-May 2012, the race would be very close and President Barack Obama could easily lose to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Further, one issue on the minds of American voters, and, by extension, one issue that may determine the election is job growth -- the likelihood that unemployed Americans will find formal work again.
With the U.S. unemployment rate at a still very high 8.1 percent, to say that jobs, job growth, and finding a good-paying job have been on the minds of millions of Americans would be an understatement.
Political science research, particularly ground-breaking research in the classic theoretical study of voting behavior, The American Voter, (Campbell et al), teaches us that job growth -- and a U.S. president's ability to maintain strong job growth and keep unemployment low -- historically has been a factor in whether that president is re-elected.
Simply put, if job growth is adequate and the unemployment rate is low or falling, good things tend to result for the sitting president in the next election. The reverse, bad things.
Further, the unemployment rate trend is important. Unemployment could be high early in an election year, as it was in 1984 during President Ronald Reagan's re-election year, but if jobs are created as the year progresses and the U.S. economy is growing, Americans will stay with the policies that are succeeding and, all other factors being equal, re-elect the sitting president, as was the case in November 1984, when Reagan crushed his challenger, former Vice President Walter Mondale.
Which Party Is Better At Job Creation?
Which raises an obvious question: In the modern era starting with the President Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency in 1933, presidents from which political party created more jobs -- Democrats or Republicans?
The Republican Party claims that it is the party of pro-business, pro-growth and pro-job creating policies.
That may very well be the GOP marquee, but U.S. Labor Department data indicate otherwise: Democratic presidents have ruled over the creation of more jobs per year than Republicans.
Over 40 years, Democratic presidencies saw the creation of 73.22 million jobs, or 1.83 million per year.
The Democratic total and averages are 71.83 million jobs and 1.65 million per year, respectively, if you include the current, partial term for Obama.
Meanwhile, over 36 years Republicans presided over the creation of 34.78 million jobs, or 966,388 per year.
Listed below are the jobs created under U.S. president, based on U.S. Non-Farm Payroll data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor:
The biggest job creator? President Bill Clinton -- who presided over the creation of a staggering 22.74 million jobs during the Roaring '90s, good for an average of 2.84 million jobs per year.
Presidential Job Creation, By Administration
Franklin D. Roosevelt, D-N.Y., 1933-45
First term: +5.44 million (estimated)
Second term: +3.29 million (estimated)
Third term: +7.42 million
Partial fourth term: -460,000 jobs
FDR Total: +15.69 million (estimated total)
Harry Truman, D-Mo., 1945-53
Partial first term: +3.23 million jobs
Second term: +5.47 million jobs
Truman Total: +8.70 million jobs
Dwight Eisenhower, R-Kan., 1953-61
First term: +2.74 million jobs
Second term: +795,000 jobs
Ike Total: +3.54 million jobs
John F. Kennedy, D-Mass., 1961-63
JFK partial term: +3.57 million jobs
Lyndon Johnson, D-Texas, 1963-69
Partial term: +2.33 million jobs
Full term: +9.86 million jobs
LBJ Total: +12.18 million jobs
Richard Nixon, R-Calif., 1969-74
First term: +6.18 million
Partial term: +3 million jobs
Nixon Total: +9.18 million jobs
Gerald Ford, R-Mich., 1974-77
Partial term: +2.07 million jobs
Jimmy Carter, D-Ga., 1977-81
Term: +10.34 million jobs
Ronald Reagan, R-Calif., 1981-89
First term: +5.32 million jobs
Second term: +10.78 million jobs
Reagan Total: +16.10 million jobs
George H.W. Bush, R-Texas, 1989-93
Term: +2.59 million jobs
Bill Clinton, D-Ark., 1993-2001
First term: +11.51 million jobs
Second term: +11.24 million jobs
Clinton Total: +22.74 million jobs
George W. Bush, R-Texas, 2001-2009
First term: +7,000 jobs
Second term: +1.3 million jobs
George W. Bush Total: 1.31 million jobs
Barack Obama, D-Ill., 2009-Present
Partial term: -1.390 million jobs lost through April 2011.
Obama Total to date: -1.390 million jobs lost.