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Why Biden is flailing

Analysis by Harry Enten, CNN

Updated: Sat, 23 Oct 2021 20:12:49 GMT

Source: CNN

President Joe Biden's popularity is at the lowest point of his administration. He's averaging about a 43% approval rating, with recently released polls from Gallup (42%) and Grinnell College (37%) coming in even lower.

While the causes of Biden's decline are numerous (e.g. declining trust of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan), perhaps the biggest one is that Americans believe there are big economic problems and that Biden isn't focused nearly enough on them. These negative perceptions of Democrats on the economy are impacting the marquee Virginia gubernatorial election, too.

Approval of Biden on the economy has tracked almost perfectly with approval of him overall. Right now, his economic approval is in the low 40s, just as it is overall. In the early summer, it was in the low 50s -- as it was overall then, too.

This decline comes as consumer confidence in the government's economic policy has noticeably declined over the last six months, according to the University of Michigan. American consumer sentiment is significantly worse than it was a month before President Donald Trump was booted from office a year ago.

Take a look at the top concerns most Americans have right now. According to a Fox News poll released this week, 53% of voters said they were extremely concerned about inflation and higher prices. No other issue topped 50%.

A recent CBS News/YouGov poll points to why inflation (and the economy at large) is a problem for Biden. A clear majority (60%) of Americans believe that Biden is not focusing enough on inflation. No other issue tested showed that many Americans who thought Biden had not paid enough attention.

A low 37% say that Biden and his fellow Democrats are focusing on the issues they care a lot about.

This jibes with what voters say about infrastructure. A major part of Biden's agenda is the infrastructure plan that has passed the Senate. But just 27% of voters put infrastructure down as a major concern of theirs.

You can contrast it to climate change, too. Combating climate change is part of Biden's Build Back Better plan, which is the other bill Democrats are trying to pass through Congress. A mere 35% of voters say that's an extremely important concern of theirs.

Though there are other parts of the Build Back Better plan that poll quite well, the overall perception of the deal is one that won't be particularly helpful to the economy. Only about 40% of Americans say the Build Back Better plan would help them or the nation's economy.

Of course, economic troubles aren't just a national issue.

We've seen Democrat Terry McAuliffe's lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin decline over the last few months. What once was a mid-to-high single digit advantage has shrunk to a mere 2 points in the average poll, an edge that is well within any margin of error.

Although much has been made about education, this isn't the most important issue to voters in Virginia. Instead, it's the economy and jobs (asked as a pair). More voters (27%) said the economy and jobs was the most important issue in their vote for governor than any other issue in a recent Monmouth University poll. More than that, this 27% is up from 21% who said it was the most important issue last month.

Indeed, one of the biggest edges Youngkin has over McAuliffe on any issue is the economy and jobs. By a 5-point margin, more voters trust Youngkin over McAuliffe on the economy. The only issue on which Youngkin holds a larger advantage is taxes, which is another economic issue.

The fact that the economy is playing such a large role both nationally and Virginia shouldn't be a surprise when taking the long historical view. Normally, the economy plays a predominant role in our politics. It's just that over the last five years, amid the entirety of the Trump administration and the coronavirus pandemic, the economy seemed to take a back seat.

After nine months of the Biden administration, though, what the American electorate is saying is a sign that our politics are becoming a little more normal again.


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