Sep 17, 2020 - Economy

Poll: U.S. satisfaction hovers near historic lows as economic ratings improve slightly

Illustration of Donald Trump facing a falling trend line

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Confidence in the U.S. economy remains below its early 2020 levels, though signs of a market bounce-back have improved Americans' views on current economic conditions this past month, according to a Gallup survey out Thursday.

Why it matters: Americans' satisfaction with the state of the union is holding close to historic lows, even as sentiments surrounding the U.S. economy slightly improve based on bright spots in employment numbers and stock market rallies. That, combined with President Trump's job approval rating — which rests below 50% — is "problematic" for his re-election ambitions.

By the numbers:

  • Gallup's Economic Confidence Index is -10 this month, up from -16 in August. Confidence has improved from Gallup's April low of -33 during the countrywide shutdowns that came in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 14% of Americans currently report satisfaction with how things are going in the U.S., while 85% say they are dissatisfied.
  • This month, 31% of Americans rated current conditions as "excellent" or "good," while 34% consider them "poor."
  • Last month, 32% of survey respondents said the economy was improving, while 61% said it was declining. This month, 40% say the economy is "getting better" and 56% say it is "getting worse."

The big picture: Trump maintains a 42% job approval rating, but that sits below "the 50% level that essentially ensures incumbent reelection," Gallup writes.

  • Satisfaction is beneath its prior low point when an incumbent was reelected — 33% in 2012. It is also under the 22% threshold that George H.W. Bush had before he was defeated in 1992.
  • Economic confidence is not as low as it was during the Bush administration of 1992, when it was -37, but it is less than it had been for the last three successful incumbents.

The bottom line: "[W]hile Americans do not have to be highly satisfied with national conditions to reward an incumbent with a second term, the current level is below what it was in the past when the public voted incumbents out of office," Gallup writes.

Methodology: The Gallup Poll is based on telephone interviews conducted from Aug. 31-Sept. 13, with a sample of 1,019 adults. The margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Gallup's Economic Confidence Index summarizes Americans' evaluations of current economic conditions and their assessment of whether the economy is improving or getting worse and has a theoretical range of -100 to +100.

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