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Economic Issues Prove Troublesome for Biden

By Jonathan Draeger
Published On: Last updated 05/14/2024, 02:10 PM EDT

As the election season approaches, one of the most critical topics that could influence the election of President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump is the state of the economy. A recent Financial Times/Ross poll examined public perceptions of Biden’s handling of the economy and its potential impact on his reelection prospects in November.

The poll, conducted May 2-6 with 1,003 respondents, found that 40% approved of Biden’s handling of the economy, while 58% disapproved. This is slightly better than last November when the Financial Times reported that 36% approved and 61% disapproved. The RCP Average for Biden's economic approval rating stands at 39.8%, with 58.4% disapproving. 

This does not bode well for Biden, as respondents cited "economic issues, like jobs and the cost of living" as the top concern in choosing the next president. Following economic concerns, the next most important issues were "immigration and border security," "the future of Social Security and Medicare," and "crime, public safety, and gun violence."

Trump fares better than Biden on economic issues. When asked whom they trusted most to handle the economy, regardless of their overall opinion of the candidates, Trump held an eight-point lead over Biden, 43%-35%. Another 16% said they "trust neither" to manage the economy effectively.

Despite low approval, Biden maintains that things were predicted to be much worse than they are. “Let me say it this way – when I started this administration, people were saying there’s going to be a collapse of the economy. We have the strongest economy in the world. Let me say it again – in the world,” he said in a May 9 interview with CNN. Biden likely says the U.S. economy is the “strongest in the world” because the U.S. has had an unemployment rate at or below 4% since January 2022 and relatively stable GDP growth.

Much of the disapproval of Biden's economic management appears to be driven by inflation. Respondents indicated that the most significant economic issue influencing their presidential vote was inflation, followed by gas prices and housing costs. Additionally, price increases were cited as the primary source of personal financial stress, followed by income levels and rent.

As inflation has decreased from its peak of 7.1% to about 2.7%, as measured by the Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index, this reduction could enhance Biden's reelection prospects later this year if the trend continues. However, the RCP Average for Biden's approval rating on inflation is lower than his general economic approval, at only 34.3%, with 63.8% disapproving. Biden acknowledged the problem of inflation in the CNN interview as well: “The last I saw, the combination of the inflation, the cost of inflation, all those things, that’s really worrisome to people, with good reason.”

The enduring impacts of the pandemic and high inflation levels have led only 17% of respondents to report being better off financially than before Biden became president. Approximately 32% of respondents indicated no change in their personal finances, while 51% reported being worse off. Many also attribute these economic difficulties to Biden, with 49% stating that his economic policies have harmed the economy and only 28% believing they have helped.

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