On Wednesday, President Joe Biden pitched to a skeptical public that the U.S. economy is thriving under what he is now touting as “Bidenomics” — despite a new poll showing that could be a hard sell as a foundation for his 2024 presidential reelection campaign.
In a significant economic speech in Chicago, the president said his administration’s efforts were sparking recovery after GOP policies had crushed America’s middle class. However, the poll said only one in three U.S. adults approve of his economic leadership.
The 34% approval of his handling of the economy is even lower than his overall approval rating of 41%, according to the survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
President Biden’s approval figures have hardly moved over the past year and a half, which remains a source of concern for a president pursuing a second term on his ability to focus on workers and govern.
He wants voters to connect local bridges and road projects, the rise of electric vehicles, factory construction, and renewable energy to the millions of dollars in initiatives he signed into law during the first two years of his administration.
“Bidenomics is about the future,” the president declared in his Wednesday speech to cheering supporters. “Bidenomics is just another way of saying: Restore the American dream.”
Simultaneously, he sought to paint previous Republican tax cuts as deeply flawed and said they helped the rich but failed the middle class for decades as the predicted “trickle down” benefits that never seemed to come to the less wealthy.
“The trickle-down approach failed the middle class,” said Biden. “It failed America. It blew up the deficit. It increased inequity. And it weakened our infrastructure. It stripped the dignity, pride, and hope out of communities, one after another.”
While departing Washington Wednesday, the president said he believes the United States will avoid the recession that many economic analysts have been expecting GOP leaders, including Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, who said last year that the record-high inflation under President Biden’s watch meant that “we are in a recession,” but that isn’t the case under economic definitions.
Republican officials say their tax cuts have encouraged profits and business investments that have improved pay for workers and boosted the stock market. At the same time, increased government spending would cause prices to continue rising and waste money.
The economy has continued to improve over the past year of Biden’s term in the White House.
Tuesday, the Conference Board said that consumer confidence this month reached the highest level since January 2022. Unemployment stands near a history 3.7% low.
The inflation plaguing Biden’s presidency has fallen to 4% from a peak of 9.1% last June. However, prices continue to rise significantly faster than the Federal Reserve’s target of 2%, a worry for voters and a line of attack for GOP Republican lawmakers and other presidential candidates.
Poll identified a weakness in Biden’s own base
The new poll identifies weakness in Biden’s own base. Many of the Democrats he needs to marshal in 2024 are unenthusiastic about his economic record. Seventy-two percent of his party approve of his job handling; however, only 60% say they approve of his handling of the economy.
In comparison, during the deepest parts of the pandemic, while unemployment spiked, Republicans overwhelmingly approved of then-President Trump’s economic leadership. Only around 1 in 10 Republicans approve of President Biden or the economy, demonstrating the polarization of the U.S. political climate.
Overall, 30% of adults in the U.S. say they believe the economy is good, which is up from 25% who said the same last month when congressional Republicans and the president were in the midst of negotiations over raising the nation’s debt limit. Since 2021, no more than about a third have called the economy good.
The Biden administration is making a data-driven argument along with the president’s speech. The Department of Treasury released an analysis showing that spending on factory-related construction has doubled since 2021 after adjusting for inflation. White House economists reported that inflation is lower in the United States than in the rest of the industrialized nations in the Group of Seven.
White House aides believe that the president’s speech Wednesday can generate greater awareness of his policies while increasing Democratic voters’ appreciation of the economy. Although the president’s allies acknowledge that many Americans still hold unfavorable views of the economy, they note that the actual economic data was far worse last November, when Democrats mounted a stronger-than-expected showing in the midterm elections.
Aides to President Biden say they are encouraged by data showing Americans’ views can be changed by a steady message reinforced on several fronts, which is what the president and his Cabinet are setting out to do by touring the U.S. over the next three weeks. They hope that repetition of the president’s accomplishments, along with a contrast to Republican proposals to undo those initiatives, will stick with voters in 2024.
The poll was conducted among 1,220 adults June 22-26 using a sampling drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, designed to represent the U.S. population. The sampling error margin for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.