President Barack Obama debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. - 

Every bit of public data -- housing, employment, consumer spending -- changes how voters feel about the state of the nation -- and about their own well-being.

Politicians on both sides are asking people are you better off than you were four years ago. According to Gallup polling, 38 percent of Americans say they are better off now than a year ago, and 34 percent report they are worse off.

“When we look back in history, it actually looks like Obama is in a better position than where that number was for the three presidents who lost their bids for re-election going back to Gerald Ford in 1976,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup.