Inflation Woes, Gas Prices Continue to Weigh on Biden Poll Numbers
WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — With just 126 days until the midterm elections, President Joe Biden’s overall job approval rating is continuing its downward trend, while a record percentage of Americans — 88% — believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to a Monmouth University Poll released Tuesday.
Biden’s current job approval rating is just 36%, with 58% of respondents saying they disapprove of his performance, in a poll conducted between June 23 and 27.
According to the pollster, it has now been a year since Biden held a net positive rating in the Monmouth University Poll. In July 2021, 48% of those surveyed said they approved of the president’s job performance, while 44% disapproved.
In terms of their feelings about the direction the country is headed, the 88% who said the country is going in the wrong direction marks an all-time low for this question going back to 2013, the pollsters said.
The prior low was recorded in May of this year, when 79% said the country was on the wrong track.
But if President Biden’s numbers are bad, the respondents’ opinion of Congress was far worse, with just 15% approving of the job Congress is doing, matching the May result in the poll.
“The state of the economy has Americans in a foul mood,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “And they are not happy with Washington.”
Despite their decided displeasure with the current state of affairs, preference for party control of Congress remains almost evenly divided, with no real movement since the spring, the poll found.
That prompted Murray to observe, “the question is who actually shows up to vote in the fall.”
Though pundits have been predicting a bloodbath for Democrats for months, citing a history of the party in the White House typically losing seats in Congress halfway through a president’s first term, only 36% of those surveyed in the latest Monmouth University Poll said they would prefer to have Republicans take control of Congress.
That said, only 38% said they would prefer to have Democrats in control.
When the poll pushed for “leaners” among those who initially say party control does not matter, 11% gets added to the GOP column and 9% for the Democrats.
The combined 47% Republican and 47% Democrat split represents a statistically insignificant shift from the parties’ relative standing in prior polls.
Six in 10 Americans say it is very important to have their preferred party in control of Congress. This congressional control importance metric is similar among those who want Democrats (66%) and those who want Republicans (63%) leading Congress.
So what is driving these numbers? As always, it’s the economy.
According to the poll, the number of Americans who are financially struggling has increased by double digits in the past year as inflation and gas prices have risen sharply, and a majority believe the federal government’s actions are actually hurting them.
On top of that, a large percentage of Americans believe President Biden’s policies are not benefitting the middle class.
More than 4 in 10 Americans (42%) say they are struggling to remain where they are financially. This is the first time since Monmouth started asking the question five years ago that the number topped 3 in 10 — the range in prior polls was 20% to 29%.
Just under half (47%) say their current financial situation is basically stable and only 9% say it is improving. The high point for improving was 25% in April 2019.
The number of people who say they are struggling has increased by 18 points since last year (from 24% to 42%), with that increase being fairly across the board when examining key demographic groups, including income, race, and partisanship.
The university noted the latter category — partisanship — appears to be playing an outsized role in recent poll results.
“Monmouth’s question asking respondents to assess their current financial situation seems straightforward, but like almost all aspects of public discourse today, it is filtered through a partisan lens,” it said in a footnote to this latest poll. “ Even though the overall results for this question remained relatively stable from 2017 through 2021, there were huge partisan shifts after the White House changed hands.”
Specifically, 24% of Americans said they were struggling financially in both 2018 and 2021. However, the number of Republicans who reported this situation jumped from 14% to 30% after the presidency changed from Trump to Biden, while the number of Democrats who said they were struggling dropped from 34% to 17%.
The results for independents were relatively stable (23% in 2018 and 27% in 2021).
“Thus, the results of this question as a neutral snapshot of personal finances should be viewed with this caveat in mind,” the university said, “However, the fact that reports of those struggling financially have increased over the past year by similar amounts among Republicans (+15 points), Democrats (+16 points) and independents (+18) alike indicates there has been a significant shift in the American public’s financial concerns regardless of partisanship.”
Currently, reports of struggling financially come from 58% of those earning under $50,000 (up 18 points from June 2021), 35% of those earning $50,000-$100,000 (up 15 points), and 28% of those earning over $100,000 (up 18 points).
Nearly half of the public names either inflation (33%) or gas prices (15%) as the biggest concern facing their family right now. The economy in general (9%) and paying everyday bills (6%) are among other financial concerns mentioned.
Abortion, which has registered less than 1% on this question in prior Monmouth polls going back to 2015, is currently named by 5% – predominantly among Democrats (9%). Inflation and gas prices are the top two family concerns across a wide variety of demographic groups, including income, race, and partisan identity.
Inflation was a top concern in Monmouth’s July 2021 poll at 5% and then grew to 14% in December, before more than doubling in the current poll. The current poll is also the first time that gas prices are mentioned by more than a handful of Americans as their predominant issue.
One year ago, the poll registered a wider variety of top issues, including the pandemic (17%), the economy (11%), everyday bills (11%), health care costs (7%) and job security (7%).
“Economic concerns tend to rise to the top of the list of family concerns, as you might expect, but the singular impact of inflation is really hitting home right now,” Murray said, adding, “Most Americans are blaming Washington for their current pain.”
A majority, 57%, say that the actions of the federal government over the past six months have hurt their family when it comes to their most important concern.
Just 8% say Washington has helped them and 34% say federal actions have had no real impact on their top concern. In prior polls, between 34% and 47% said government actions have hurt them on their biggest family concern.
The current poll marks the first time this sentiment is in the majority. The results also indicate little optimism about the future — just 23% expect that future government actions over the next few years will help improve their family’s top concern while 45% say Washington will hurt them. One year ago, that response was basically flipped (40% expected to be helped and 34% expected to be hurt).
Currently, 54% of Americans say the middle class has not benefited at all from Biden’s policies. This is up from 36% one year ago and it is also higher than 36% who said the same about former President Donald Trump at about the same point in his term (April 2018).
It is even higher than 46% who said the same about former President Barack Obama in 2013, when Monmouth first posed this question.
Just 7% say the middle class has been helped a lot by Biden’s policies and 34% say they have been helped a little.
A majority (52%) also say that poor families have not benefited from Biden’s presidency, up from 29% in July 2021. The current result was similar for Trump in 2018 (53%) but it is higher than it was for Obama in 2013 (37%).
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from June 23 to 27, 2022 with 978 adults in the United States. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey.