Despite months more and more positive economic indicators, the American public remains negative about the nation’s economy, with 51% saying they believe the economy is still in a downturn and getting worse, according to a new CNN poll.
This consistent pessimism, combined with a stagnant and negative approval rating for President Joe Bidencould herald challenges to his attempts to sell voters on the success of his domestic agenda as part of his 2024 re-election bid.
Biden’s overall approval rating is at 41% in the new poll, about level with where it has been since the spring. His approval rating drops to 37% when Americans rate his handling of the economy and further to 30% for his handling of inflation. Among political independents, barely 26% approve of his handling of inflation.
Approval ratings for Vice President Kamala Harris similar to Biden’s – 42% approve and 57% disapprove. But there are differences in how they are viewed by key demographics, which could have implications for the ticket’s re-election strategy.
Independents rate Harris somewhat more favorably than they do Biden (42% approve of her handling of the job versus 36% who approve of Biden). Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents younger than 45 are about as likely to approve of Harris’ handling of the job (71% approve) as they are to approve of Biden’s performance (70%), while older Democrats are more likely to approve of Biden than Harris (86% approve of Biden vs. 79% for Harris). And while Biden’s approval rating has softened among black Americans, now regularly hovering around 60% in national surveys (it’s at 61% in the new poll), Harris’ approval rating with black adults is significantly higher at 72%.
The Democratic Party overcame deeply negative numbers for both Biden and the economy in 2022 to emerge with a better-than-expected performance in that year’s midterm elections. As traditional pre-election measures such as presidential approval and perceptions of the county’s direction become increasingly polarized and less responsive to real-world events, the same could happen again in 2024, but nearly all presidents elected to a second period in the modern poll had stronger numbers at this point in their expression.
As low as they are now, views of Biden have risen since last summer’s lows. But there has been little movement recently on views about Biden, the public’s perception of the economy itself or the way things are going in the country more generally.
The public remains largely negative about the state of the country, with only 29% saying things are going well in the US and 71% saying things are going badly, about the same as earlier this year.
Two-thirds (68%) say that Congress has done nothing during this term to effectively address the problems facing the country today. That’s slightly worse than just before the fall midterm elections, when 62% said the previous Congress had done nothing to effectively address the country’s problems.
Just before the 2022 election, Democrats overwhelmingly said the Democratic-controlled Congress had taken effective steps to address problems (66% said so), but now, with partisan control of Congress split between a GOP House and a Democratic Senate, where very few people, by any partisan measure, appear to see Congress as effective (35% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans, and just 27% of independents say it has done something to effectively address the country’s problems).
In a remarkable shift since late last year, most now say they trust Republicans in Congress (54%) over Biden (45%) to handle the big problems facing the country today. There is a steep decline in trust in Biden among people of color who do not have college degrees (from 64% who trusted Biden more then to 49% now). Others hold much the same views now as they did in December.
When asked what is the most important issue facing the country today, economic concerns continue to dominate, with 44% citing an economy-related issue such as the cost of living or inflation (19%); the economy in general (16%); or poverty, finances and money (3%). No other single topic was named by more than 10% of Americans.
The outlook for the economy remains bleak. Overall, only 25% say economic conditions are at least fairly good. That includes a scant 3% who say things are “very good,” a number that has stayed below 5% for nearly two years. The partisan gap remains significant, especially regarding deeply negative views: Most Republicans (54%) say conditions are “very bad,” with only about 15% of Democrats saying the same. Among the full public, the very low number currently stands at 34%, down from a Biden-era peak of 41% last summer, but far higher than the 19% who felt this way at around the 100-day mark of his time in office. .
About half (51%) say the country’s economy is still in a slump and that conditions are continuing to worsen, while only 20% say they see the economy improving. Another 28% say the economy has stabilized and is neither worsening nor improving.
Combining views about where the economy stands and how it is changing, 50% of Americans say economic conditions are both bad and getting worse, 19% say they are bad but stable, and 5 % that it is bad, but improving. Only 15% of adults see the economy as good and improving, while 8% say things are good and have stabilized, and 2% say they are okay now but getting worse.
And while Americans express more satisfaction with their personal finances than they do positive feelings about the economy as a whole, more are dissatisfied with their personal financial situation than are satisfied: 55% are dissatisfied—the same share that felt this way in October—while 45% are satisfied.
Much of the stagnation in these views comes from entrenched partisans.
Democrats are somewhat more likely now than six months ago to say the economy is recovering (39% now versus 30% in December), but that movement comes largely among those who already believed the economic bleeding had stopped, with 29% still saying they see the economy facing a downturn, the same share as in December. Independents’ views have barely budged (most say the economy is still getting worse, 51% now versus 56% in December), and Republican pessimism also remains widespread (74% say the economy is still in a downturn, about the same like the 75% who felt this way in December).
Democrats (55%) are more likely to be satisfied with their personal finances than independents (40%) or Republicans (41%), a dynamic unchanged since October (55% of Democrats, 38% of independents and 42% of Republicans expressed satisfaction with their finances then).
Negative personal impacts due to the economy are still common, and many still say that economic conditions change their spending patterns. Although inflation has started to ease over the past few months, around seven in 10 say they have changed the groceries they buy to stay on budget (71% now, the same as in December) and have cut back on spending on extras and entertainment to afford necessities (70% now, 71% in December). About half in the new poll say they have significantly cut back on how much they drive (48%), largely unchanged since December despite fluctuating gas prices, and have changed or canceled plans to travel this summer ( 50%). Just over a third say that they have had difficulty finding affordable housing (37%).
Some of this also appears to be tied to partisan sentiments. Republicans, for example, are about 20 percentage points more likely than Democrats to report that they have cut back on driving, and that pattern holds across income levels and age groups.
But among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, there are wide divides that suggest the younger, less-educated and lower-income segments of the party remain deeply negative about the economy, even as the higher-income, college-educated core of the party sees a brighter economic image.
Democratically aligned adults younger than 45, for example, are about 23 points less likely than older adults to say they feel satisfied with their personal financial situation. The corresponding difference for the Republicans is 9 points. And lower-income Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are 17 points more likely to describe the nation’s economy as bad than higher-income Democrats are. Among Republicans, there is no difference by income in the proportion who call economic conditions bad.
Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the difference in economic consequences between those with higher household incomes and those with lower incomes is significantly larger than among Republican-aligned adults. For example, while a whopping 88% of Republicans with incomes below $50,000 annually say they have changed their grocery shopping habits to stay on budget, only 66% of Republicans with incomes above $100,000 annually say the same. However, this 22-point gap pales in comparison to the 43-point difference between lower-income Democratic-aligned adults (78% of those with incomes under $50,000 annually say they have changed their shopping patterns) and higher (35). % among those with an annual household income of $100,000 or more).
The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS from July 1 to July 31 among a random national sample of 1,279 adults initially reached by mail. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results for the entire sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.