There are a lot of bad numbers kicking around the political world for President Joe Biden and his party in Congress at the moment, but none may be worse than this one: -45.
That’s Gallup’s most recent Economic Confidence Index number, which “summarizes Americans’ ratings of current economic conditions and whether the economy is getting better or worse.” The index ranges from +100 (very good) to -100 (very bad). The rating from May of -45 is the public’s most negative view of the economy Gallup has measured since the end of the Great Recession in early 2009.
The numbers inside Gallup’s index provide more daunting news for Democrats. Just 14% of Americans said that economic conditions in the US are “excellent” or “good.” More than three times that number — 46% — said economic conditions were “poor” and 39% rated them as “only fair.” That’s even worse than where Gallup found things in April, when 1 in 5 Americans said that the state of the economy was either “excellent” or “good,” while 42% said they were “poor.”
Gallup’s survey is far from a one-off. In the latest polling from AWN released last month, just 23% of Americans rated economic conditions as even somewhat good. That’s down drastically from the 37% who said the same in December 2021 and precipitously from the 54% who said the same in April 2021.
Overall, AWN’s poll found that Americans’ views of the economy are the worst they have been in a decade.
Gallup’s latest numbers came out on the same day that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged to AWN’s Wolf Blitzer that she had made a mistake when she said in 2021 that inflation only posed a “small risk.”
“I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take,” Yellen said. “There have been unanticipated and large shocks to the economy that have boosted energy and food prices and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly that I didn’t — at the time — didn’t fully understand, but we recognize that now.”
Which, speaking as an economist, might be right and true. But in the current political moment for the Treasury secretary to admit this publicly is a big problem.
All of this negative news on how people perceive the economy comes as the Biden White House — and the President himself — seems to have finally grasped just how dire their political situation is on the economy.
On Tuesday, Biden met with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and insisted he was laser-focused on inflation. “I’m meeting with the chairman today and Secretary Yellen to discuss my top priority, that is addressing inflation in order to transition from historic recovery to a steady growth for American families,” Biden said. “And my plan is to address inflation, starts with a simple proposition: respect the Fed, respect the Fed’s independence, which I have done and will continue to do.”
And that meeting came a day after Biden published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he laid out his plan for lowering inflation. “Americans are anxious,” Biden wrote. “I know that feeling. I grew up in a family where it mattered when the price of gas or groceries rose. We felt it around the kitchen table. But the American people should have confidence that our economy face.”
This is all part of a broader monthlong push by Biden and his team on the economy and inflation, as AWN’s Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak reported Tuesday. The duo wrote:
“It’s not the first time President Joe Biden and his aides have sought to renew attention on the economy. But there remains little Biden can do on his own to bring down prices in the immediate term.
“Yet facing near-record low approval ratings five months before the critical congressional contests, the President has determined another concentrated focus on Americans’ bottom line is necessary to demonstrate his attention on the issue.”
The Gallup numbers make clear the depth of the challenge before Biden. And time is decidedly limited, with just 160 days before Election Day 2022. Unless Biden can turn around perceptions on the condition of the economy — and fast — it is going to be a brutal November for his party.