Biden pulls even with Trump as economic view improves slightly, CNBC survey shows

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Joe Biden and Donald Trump 2024.

Evelyn Hockstein | David Swanson | Reuters

Americans’ views on the economy have improved modestly, according to the latest CNBC All-America Economic Survey, helping President Biden pull even with Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup.

But former President Trump holds a commanding lead on several economic issues, like inflation, taxes and immigration, that voters say are most important in this election.

The survey of 1,001 Americans across the country showed 46% of voters choose Trump and 45% picking Biden in a one-on-one match with 10% undecided. Trump held a 48-42 lead in the December poll. Both polls had a margin of error of +/-3.1%.

Biden saw improved support among Democrats and independents and those with a college degree and higher compared with the prior quarter. Trump saw his considerable advantage among those with less than a high school education increase, while maintaining his large leads among whites, rural voters and men. He did lose some support among those with some college education.

Biden’s overall approval rating rose to 39% from 35% in December and his disapproval declined to 56% from 59%. His economic approval numbers rose to 37% from 33% while disapproval dropped to 58% from 62%.

Jay Campbell, partner who Hart Research, who served as the Democratic pollster for the survey, said, “That 39% is an objectively bad approval number for a candidate going into reelection, but it also could be enough this time.”

Micah Roberts, partner with Public Opinion Strategies, the Republican pollsters, largely agreed: “We’re in new territory with two very unpopular candidates who people know very well.  There’s not much that you’re going to learn new about either one of these guys. And so maybe it’s enough. It’s enough to keep it tight. That’s for sure.”

Poor views on foreign policy, immigration

Yet the President’s approval on foreign policy remains deeply negative with just 30% approving compared to 63% who disapprove and 29% approving of his handling of immigration and border security with 64% disapproving.

More than 90% of Republicans and 60% of independents disapprove of his handling of both foreign policy and the immigration, but so do 30% of Democrats — a substantial bloc of opposition from within the president’s own party. Younger Democrats, in fact, are evenly split on the presidents handling of foreign policy.

While those issues look to be dragging on the president’s approval, he has received a boost from somewhat better overall views on the economy. Twenty-five percent rate the economy as excellent or good, up from 19% in December with 75% saying it’s just fair or poor, down from 80%. Both are the most optimistic numbers since the summer of 2021, and go along with declining inflation numbers, good growth data and low unemployment. At the same time, American’s are only half as positive on the economy as they were before the pandemic.

Americans’ outlook for gains in their home prices are the highest that they’ve been in two years, optimism on the stock market is the highest in three years while the 40% of respondents who expect a recession is the lowest since 2000. Expected wage gains are about average and confidence in retaining one’s job remains high at 82%.

Better off financially under Trump?

As good as all of that may sound for Biden, a 39% plurality of Americans believe they will be better off financially if former President Trump is elected, compared with 23% who say Biden and 34% who say it makes no difference to their financial well-being who is president. Most of those results are driven by Republicans, 79% of whom believe strongly that it matters for them financially if Trump is reelected. Just 18% think it doesn’t matter compared with 51% of independents and 42% of Democrats. Still, 25% of independents believe they will be better off if Trump is elected compared with 12% who pick Biden.

Trump also looks to have a commanding lead among voters when it comes to which candidate they believe is best on several key economic issues. Survey respondents said inflation is the No. 1 issue and they give Trump a 27-point advantage on which candidate will be to deal with it. Biden has a 19-point lead on the next most important issue, healthcare. But Trump has double-digit leads on who is best for the overall economy, and on crime, taxes, immigration and China. Biden has a large 25-point advantage on the abortion issue and a slim lead on Social Security.

But pollsters flagged some weaknesses in Biden’s coalition. Black voters are more likely to be undecided than the typical voter, and Latinos support Biden with only a 9-point advantage over Trump. The AP Votecast poll suggested Biden won the Latino vote by 28 points in 2020.

Latinos also split on who is better on key economic issues. They think Trump, by a 12-point margin, would have better policies for dealing with inflation, while they see Biden better on healthcare by 24 points.

For the full results of the survey click here.

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