The president made clear he will run on what is perceived as one of his biggest weaknesses: the economy. It just remains to be seen whether voters believe him when he says how good things are.
President Joe Biden stared down into the abyss of frustrating poll numbers Wednesday and made it clear he will run on what is one of his biggest weaknesses – if not in reality, in public perception: the economy.
Despite record job creation, unemployment at near historic lows and encouraging signs on inflation and the threat of a recession, Americans in poll after poll give the president low marks on his handling of the economy.
That has long been a frustration for the White House, and with his reelection campaign in full swing, Biden embraced his economic record and declared his approach has been instrumental in the nation’s post-pandemic recovery.
“Bidenomics is just another way of saying, restore the American dream, because it worked before,” the president said in what House billed as a “major speech” at the Old Post Office in Chicago.
“When we invest in our people, we strengthen the middle class,” Biden said, rejecting the “trickle-down economics” of the past and saying the concept in which taxes are lowered on business and the wealthy in order to stimulate the economy and benefit everyone predominantly helped big corporations without helping working people.
“The trickle down approach failed the middle class,” Biden said. “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.”
The president repeated the statistics the White House has been touting for many months: 13.4 million new jobs, more than any other president has presided over in his first two years; the longest stretch of less-than 4% unemployment since the 1960s; annual inflation down over the past 10 months, with real wages up over the last 10 months; a greatly reduced federal deficit; and more than $490 billion in private investment.
None of those numbers appears to have moved the American public’s impression of the president’s performance on the issue. A new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Wednesday found that just 34% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the economy – a number lower than his overall approval rating of 41% in the same survey.
The White House has attributed the dismal approval ratings on the economy to the fact that the visible evidence of an improving economy – such as infrastructure projects underway in communities – is just emerging. In her briefing with reporters this week, White House spokeswoman Olivia Dalton noted that Americans do overwhelmingly support White House achievements like the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure law and legislation advancing U.S.-manufactured computer chips.
The problem for Biden, says pollster Lee Miringoff, is that people’s attitudes toward the economy are very partisan, with Republicans giving Biden single-digit approval ratings on the economy and not changing their minds as the economic numbers change.
The political chasm “has gotten wider, and there’s no bridge to connect it,” says Miringoff, director of the Marist institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York.
And since numbers can be presented in different ways to support opposing conclusions, the GOP is exploiting Biden’s poor polling numbers on the economy to their advantage – even when the numbers don’t say exactly what Republicans claim in their messaging.
For example, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent reporters an email ahead of Biden’s speech Wednesday titled “Bidenomics – Americans hate it.” But two of the examples the email provided actually show how things are improving.
The email linked to a story that said 57% of Americans live “paycheck to paycheck.” But that story also said it’s an improvement from May, when the number was 61%.
The NRCC also provided a link to a Goldman Sachs Research report predicting a 25% chance of a recession. But that same report said the financial services group had lowered its prediction from a 35% chance.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also downplayed the possibility of a recession Wednesday, saying it is “certainly possible” but “not the most likely case.”
“The U.S. economy has actually been quite resilient,” Powell said in Sintra, Portugal, where he was attending a European Central Bank conference.
People also view numbers through their own prisms, experts note. Inflation, for example, may be easing steadily from a brief and sudden surge over 9%, but it’s still too high for most consumers. Gas prices are about a dollar per-gallon less than they were last year, but they’re still higher than drivers want to pay.
A survey in March by the University of Michigan indicates that people have been hearing more bad economic news from the media than good news. For example, 12% said they had heard good employment news in march, but 23% said they had heard or read bad news about unemployment in the media the same month.
“The simple fact is that bad news always gets more media coverage than good news,” says John Sides, a Vanderbilt University political science professor. He notes that stories about easing inflation also note that it is still high and that stories about inflation being eased by higher interest rates also say the hiked interest rates could fuel a recession.
It’s not clear whether the numbers are driven by media coverage or what media consumers tend to read or listen to, but the perceptions of the economy have clearly hurt Biden.
That’s a trend Biden hopes to flip as he embarks on an aggressive campaign to sell his economic record.
“The perception is that things are not strong until [people] are told they are,” Miringoff says. “Changing facts won’t change the perceptions without the case being made.”
Source : usnews