Commentary

Remember the Last Time 70 Percent of Americans Thought the Economy Was Bad?

By Jenny Beth Martin | November 23, 2021 | 3:51pm EST
A man proffers dollar bills. (Photo credit: Getty/Yuri Cortez/AFP)
A man proffers dollar bills. (Photo credit: Getty/Yuri Cortez/AFP)

The entire political world is talking about President Biden’s abysmal numbers in the recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. The numbers are so bad, in fact, that I’d feel sympathy for him, if it weren’t for two things: First, he brought it on himself, and, second, he and the team around him still appear not to have realized that he brought it on himself – which means, troublingly, that he’s still on track to do more damage to the country, and to his own political standing. 

Biden’s overall job approval ratings have swung from 52/42 percent approve/disapprove in April to 41/53 approve/disapprove in November. That’s a -22 point swing in seven months. More troubling for Biden, the intensity has moved strongly against him: In the April survey, 34 percent said they strongly approved of his job performance, while 35 percent said they strongly disapproved; in the recent survey, just 19 percent said they strongly approved, while 44 percent – more than twice as many – said they strongly disapproved. 

On the economy, his job approval ratings have swung from 52/41 approve/disapprove in April to 39/55 approve/disapprove. That’s a -27 point swing in seven months. 

On his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his job approval ratings have swung from 64/31 approve/disapprove to 47/49 approve/disapprove. That‘s a -35 point swing in seven months. 

But here’s an even more disturbing finding for Team Biden: both the bipartisan infrastructure package and the massive reconciliation bill poll well, and now poll even better than they did in the spring. 

When asked, “Do you support or oppose the federal government spending one trillion dollars on roads, bridges, and other infrastructure,” 63 percent said they support it, while just 32 percent said they oppose it. That +31 support number is up from +14 in the April survey, which means Team Biden did a good job building support for the infrastructure package. 

Similarly, when asked, “Do you support or oppose the federal government spending about two trillion dollars to address climate change and to create or expand preschool, health care and other social programs,” 58 percent said they support it, while 37 percent oppose it. That +21 support number is up from +9 in the April survey, which, again, means Team Biden did a good job building support for the big spending bill. 

So why should Team Biden be troubled that it has grown support for the big, multi-trillion-dollar spending packages? Because even though they’ve grown support for the big spending bills, they haven’t grown support for Biden – in fact, Biden’s approval ratings have moved in the opposite direction. It seems his job approval ratings are divorced from popular sentiment about the spending bills. 

Tellingly, this latest survey was fielded from Nov. 7-10 – that is, after the House passed the bipartisan infrastructure package. During the four days the survey was in the field, the news was full of positive, pro-Biden coverage of the House action to pass the bill, and the after-action inside analyses of how Biden and his colleagues shepherded the bill to passage against long odds. 

Yet it seems not to have moved the needle for Biden’s job approval ratings.  

Perhaps that’s because buried deeper in the survey are these twin nuggets: When asked, “How concerned are you, if at all, that Biden will do too much to increase the size and role of government in U.S. society,” 59 percent said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned, while just 38 percent said they were “not so” or “not at all” concerned – and that +21 concerned margin represented a +13 percent growth in the more concerned from the April survey, when the spread was just 53 percent more concerned vs. 45 percent not concerned. 

Second, when asked to describe the state of the nation’s economy, just 29 percent said it was “excellent” or “good,” while fully 70 percent said it was “not so good” or “poor.” That -41 percent margin on the economy represents a huge -25 point swing since the April survey, when the numbers were 42 percent “excellent” or “good,” and 58 percent answering “not so good” or “poor.” 

To put that in context, the last time at least 70 percent of survey respondents in an ABC News/Washington Post survey said the economy was “not so good” or “poor” was in October of 2014 (72 percent), right before the midterm elections that delivered the Senate to GOP hands. 

Team Biden is ideologically committed to its belief in Big Government. Just as it read the election returns from Virginia, New Jersey, and the rest of the country two weeks ago and concluded that voters rejected Democrats not because they had already gone too far too fast, but because they had not gone far enough fast enough, Team Biden will misread this poll and conclude that Democrats must double down on their Big Government agenda. Bet on it. 

Jenny Beth Martin is honorary chairman of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.  

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