Voters Growing More Doubtful of Sustained Economic Rebound

July 8, 2020 by Dan McCue
Michael A. Peterson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Peter G. Peterson Foundation.(Photo courtesy the Peter G. Peterson Foundation)

WASHINGTON – Voters have grown more pessimistic about a quick “v-shaped” economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, especially in the south and west where the number of new cases have spiked recently, a new poll has found.

The survey released on Tuesday by the Financial Times of London and the nonpartisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a fiscal watchdog, found 49% now believe the outbreak will get worse in their community over the next month.

That’s up from 35% who felt that way in early June. What’s more, only 24% said they believe the outbreak will quickly slacken.

That pessimism about the virus appears to have shaken respondents’ confidence in the economy. Where last month 42% said they believed the economy would fully recover in a year, that percentage has shrunk to 37%.

Meanwhile the number who believe it will take a year or more for the economy to recover rose from 58% to 63%.

The FT-Peterson U.S. Economic Monitor was conducted in late June, weeks after the Memorial Day holiday — normally the unofficial start of summer — became a “superspreader” event for the virus, causing the number of new cases to rise dramatically in places like South Carolina, Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Not surprisingly, respondents in those states and the surrounding regions expressed the most reservations about the future.

In the west, 59% of likely voters said they expect the coronavirus outbreak will get worse in their communities in the next month; in the south 56% of respondents shared that opinion.

In contrast, respondents in the northeast, the region that bore the brunt of the initial viral outbreak, but which has yet to see another spike, were generally more optimistic, with only 29% saying they thought things would get worse in the communities in coming weeks.

The poll is more political bad news for President Donald Trump, who before the pandemic and widespread protests following the killing of George Floyd, had expected to ride a strong economy to a second term.

Today, more national opinion polls show former Vice President Joe Biden with a double-digit lead over the Republican incumbent.

Worst of all for the president, the resurgent outbreak and the growing concern around it is occurring in states he barely won against Hillary Clinton four years ago.

In recent days, Trump has fallen back on touting encouraging job reports that showed employers added nearly 4.8 million positions early last month.

However, it remains to be seen whether those numbers will hold up over the long term — the positive June employment data was collected before the new outbreak led governors in a number of states to roll back their reopening plans.

Given the growing uncertainty over the future of both the pandemic and the economy, 82% of likely voters said they support an extension of benefits under the CARES Act legislation enacted in the spring.

This includes 92% of Democrats who support extending CARES Act benefits beyond their July 31 expiration date. A solid 73% of Republicans also said they support the extension.

Ninety-six percent of Black voters support extending the CARES Act, including 73% who “strongly support” doing so, compared to less than half (43%) of white voters who “strongly support” a CARES’ extension.

Sixty-six percent said they favored an extension of the program’s extra unemployment benefits, which are set to expire at the end of July.

The benefits add an extra $600 a week on top of state jobless benefit payments.

Perhaps the most telling question in the survey is the one that echoed a line Ronald Reagan used to defeat Jimmy Carter in 1980, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

The poll found that 37% of likely voters said they believe they are financially better off since President Trump took office, while 29% said they are worse off.

A growing number of Americans (50%) think restrictions on non-essential businesses and social distancing requirements should remain for three months or longer, up 16 points from April.

Across geographic regions, just one in 10 voters (13%) think their state is moving and reopening too slowly. On the other hand, nearly half of voters in the South (48%) and West (47%) think their states are moving and reopening too fast.

Two-thirds of Americans say the pandemic has impacted their personal or business decisions, including more than half reporting that they wore face mask (62%), avoided public places (57%) and changed travel plans (51%).

The coronavirus is also more likely to have changed the behavior of younger voters (ages 18 to 44 years) than older voters (ages 65+). For example, in those age groups:

  • Two thirds of younger voters said they are wearing face masks (66%), compared to 54% of older voters.
  • Six in 10 younger voters said they have avoided public places, compared to 48% of older voters.
  • Nearly half of older voters (45%) said the coronavirus has not at all impacted their behavior, including personal or business decisions, compared to just 26% of younger voters.

The coronavirus is more likely to have changed the behavior of college graduates than non-college graduates. More than seven in 10 college graduates said they are wearing face masks (71% compared to 57%). More than six in 10 college graduates say they have avoided public places (65% compared to 53%) and have cancelled or changed travel plans (63% compared to 44%).

The FT-Peterson U.S. Economic Monitor was conducted online by Global Strategy Group, a Democratic polling company, and North Star Opinion Research, a Republican group, between June 23 and June 29. It reflects the opinions of 1,000 likely voters nationwide, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. 

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