According to a new Harvard Harris poll, 56% of American voters said their financial situation worsened under President Joe Biden. The authors report that this is the highest recorded percentage in their monthly poll. With regular gasoline topping $4.00 per gallon nationwide and no relief in sight as the nation heads into summer, it may not be the last record-setting result. Until October of 2021, between four and nine percent of respondents said they had no opinion on this metric. Now everyone is weighing in.
The finding on Americans’ economic health is consistent with the other results. Only 29% of Americans think the nation is on the right track. The partisan differences in this measure are stark. Democrats are the outlier, with 54% saying the country is heading in the right direction. Only 12% of Republicans and 18% of Independents agree. Unaffiliated voters closely mirroring the sentiments of Republicans in polls on economic and cultural issues is becoming very common and is seen throughout the poll.
When asked about the economic direction under Biden, 10% of Republicans and 17% of Independents say the United States is moving in the right direction. By contrast, 47% of Democrats are happy with the economic policy outcomes. Overall, nearly two-thirds of all respondents feel the U.S. economy is weak. A plurality of 41% feel pessimistic about their personal situation over the next 12 months, and 49% believe there will be a recession in the next year.
Given these results, it stands to reason that inflation and the economy are the top concerns among voters. Together 70% of respondents flag these issues as top concerns. Worries about inflation alone increased seven points to 40% in a single month. Immigration ranks in third place. According to voters, the issues Democrats are trying to pivot to, such as gun control, abortion, race relations, and policing, rank 9th, 11th, 14th, and 26th. Among voters, precisely 5% rate January 6th as an important issue.
Biden’s overall approval still hovers around 40% in the poll. That is the average of 14% of Republicans, 30% of Independents, and 75% of Democrats. The only other demographic where Biden earns over 50% approval is among African Americans at 56%, while he maintains the approval of exactly half of the Hispanic voters. These are dismal numbers for a Democrat President.
On specific issues, Biden’s approval has fallen precipitously since Inauguration Day 2021:
The only place he is above water is in handling COVID-19, and at this point, it is not clear what actions remain to combat the virus. In fact, Biden’s approval went up on this dimension from a low of 42% in March, when he largely stopped talking about it.
Republicans are +5 on approval in the May results. With Democrats in charge of both congressional chambers, only 31% approve of the job Congress is doing. Of prominent politicians, only Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) have positive approval ratings at +6 and +3. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is one of the most popular Democrats at -5, only beaten by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) at -1.
Net approval for Speaker Nancy Pelosi is -22. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tie at -15. In the Executive Branch, Vice President Kamala Harris scores -13 while President Biden sits at -11. The former occupants of those offices, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, received a -7 and -2, respectively.
According to voters, the potential leaders of the Republican Party, including President Trump, are more popular than the potential leaders of the Democrats. Hillary Clinton keeps hinting she may be willing to step up in 2024 if needed, and her net approval is -17. If American voters are looking for the grudge match no sane person would want in 2024, Trump is +10 on net approval over Clinton. He is also more popular than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who scored a net approval of -25 before he assigned Texas Sen. John Cornyn to negotiate on new gun laws with Democrats.
If the grizzled Democrat strategist James Carville’s theory that “It’s the economy, stupid” holds, Biden’s performance will act as a drag on candidates down the ballot in the midterms. Barack Obama famously cost Democrats around 1,000 seats nationwide despite maintaining personal popularity. Biden is not personally popular, and the economy is going south fast. Never underestimate the ability of the GOP to screw it up, but the potential for a red wave is reaching tsunami territory.