Feb 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Americans starting to feel better about the economy but not about Biden: poll

President Biden at the White House in January 2024.

President Biden at the White House in January 2024. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Americans feel slightly better about the state of the economy, but that sentiment hasn't translated into an uptick in President Biden's approval rating, according to an AP-NORC poll out Thursday.

Why it matters: Despite an increase in confident, aggressive messaging from the White House about positive economic indicators, such as rebounding consumer sentiment and a slowdown in inflation, Biden's approval rating has remained stagnant.

  • The new poll findings come as Biden heads into an election where he and former President Trump are expected to face off in a tight race once again, with the economy top of mind for many voters.

By the numbers: More than a third (35%) of 1,152 respondents in the new poll said they believe the economy is in good shape, which was roughly a five percentage point increase from an AP-NORC poll conducted in December.

  • It was also an increase from AP-NORC's findings a year ago, when only 24% of those surveyed said they thought the economy was doing well.
  • Opinions of the economy were heavily divided by partisanship, with 58% of Democrats having a positive opinion of the economy and only 15% of Republicans agreeing.
  • Still, both Democrats and Republicans were more likely to say the economy was doing well.

Yes but: Only 38% approve of Biden's overall job performance — and the number drops to 35% when it comes to his handling of the economy. Both are similar to his ratings in previous months.

  • Approval of Biden's overall performance was heavily partisan, as well, with 70% of Democrats approving of it and 92% of Republicans disapproving.

Between the lines: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said at a press conference Wednesday that people may be feeling less confident about the economy despite historically low unemployment and other positive indicators because they are paying "much more for the basics of life than they were two years ago, three years ago."

  • "That has to be part of the reason why people are unhappy — and they are right to be unhappy," he said.
  • Powell made the comments after the Fed opted to hold interest rates steady, saying it needs more evidence that inflation has sufficiently been slowed before approving a rate drop.

Zoom out: Biden's overall approval rating hasn't been over 40% since around a year ago, according to AP-NORC polling.

  • Younger Democrats in the 18 to 39 age range had a significantly less positive view of Biden compared to older Democrats, especially when it came to the economy and foreign policy.

The big picture: Last year, the U.S. economy outpaced all other large economies around the world in terms of growth and is expected to do so again in 2024, Axios' Neil Irwin reports.

  • The stock market, a leading gauge of how investors think of the economy, has also been experiencing a bull market, with the S&P 500 closing at a new all-time high last month.
  • However, the index dropped slightly on Wednesday following the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates.

Go deeper: Pay growth slowed in Q4, another sign the labor market is cooling

Methodology: This survey interviewed 1,152 adults using landlines and cell phones between Jan. 25 and 29 and has a margin of sampling error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.

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