As President Biden and top Democrats and Republicans in Congress prepare for a high-stakes meeting over the debt limit, a new poll from Gallup shows Americans’ trust in their leaders on economic issues scraping new lows.
Only 35% have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence in Biden to do the right thing on the economy, versus 64% who have “only a little” or “almost none.”
As for the top four House and Senate leaders Biden will be meeting with on Tuesday: 34% have a combined great or fair amount of confidence in Democratic leaders in Congress on the economy and 38% say the same of Republicans.
The poll of 1,013 adults was taken from April 3 to April 25 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
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If you’ve read any polls over the last couple of years, you’re probably not surprised that Americans don’t have much faith in Biden or in Congress to handle the economy.
But what leaps out to me is how much this pessimism has spread even to less partisan figures who typically are afforded more benefit of the doubt, even under unpopular presidents during trying economic times.
The latest Gallup poll found respondents have less confidence in Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who was appointed by Donald Trump and re-appointed by Biden, than any recent predecessor going back 20 years. 36% have a great/fair amount of confidence in his decisions, while the 28% who have “almost none” is the highest ever recorded by a full five points.
It’s the same story with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen: The 31% who say they have almost no confidence in her performance is the highest of any recent person to hold the post by a significant margin. That includes Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin during pandemic job losses, and Jack Lew and Tim Geithner under President Obama during the long and painful recovery from the Great Recession.
For both Powell and Yellen, anywhere from two to three times as many respondents typically registered “no opinion” when asked about their predecessors, suggesting the public is more tuned in now to their performance and more likely to have a strong position.
Room for Disagreement
Some commentators believe Americans are getting a distorted picture of the economy, especially given that the unemployment rate hit 3.4% in April, the lowest level since 1969.
Matthew A. Winkler, editor in chief emeritus of Bloomberg News, pointed the blame at press coverage in a recent op-ed: “What else would you expect in an era when perception drives the prevailing media narrative, feeding what seems like a never-ending doom loop of negativity when it comes to the economy?”
Slow Boring writer Matthew Yglesias singled out progressive activists’ pessimism, which makes it harder for Democrats to cheer for good news on jobs or wages. “It’s going to be hard for Biden to ever get really good numbers on the economy because not only are Republicans going to say everything is awful regardless, but a lot of left advocacy groups are institutionally committed to doomerism,” he tweeted recently.
In the latest Gallup poll, 23% of Democrats have “only a little” confidence in Biden or “almost none,” versus only 5% of Republicans who have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence in Biden on the other end.
- Recent headlines on banking failures may be contributing to Americans’ negative outlook. Another Gallup poll last month found nearly half of Americans were concerned about the safety of their money, on par with a similar poll taken at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.