Voters’ Views of the U.S. Economy: Not Bad, but Not Great

Voters overall give economy a C+ grade, as banking and inflation woes loom as Biden begins his re-election run
May 01, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

With President Joe Biden officially launching his re-election campaign last week, the incumbent Democrat is set to face an electorate that feels lukewarm about the state of the economy. A new Morning Consult survey finds that despite signs of improvement in inflation and labor market tightness, voters’ view of the economy’s performance — a C+ — hasn’t changed since last year.

Voters Give the U.S. Economy a C+

The average grade voters gave the overall current state of the U.S. economy
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Surveys conducted Oct. 27-29, 2022, and April 12-14, 2023, among representative samples of 2,005 and 1,940 registered voters, respectively, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 percentage points.

GOP, independent voters are slightly less sour on the economy 

  • Among all voters, the average grade given to the U.S. economy in April was a C+. That passing mark includes 52% who give the current state of the U.S. economy either a D (26%) or an F (26%).
  • The share of Republicans who gave the U.S. economy an F fell to 40% in the new survey, down from 45% in October 2022, while the share of independent voters who said the same declined 6 percentage points to 23%. 
  • Voters’ mediocre view of the economy seemingly matches their feelings about Biden’s performance on the issue: 41% approve of how the president is handling the economy. That rating, however, has trended up since January of last year, when 37% said they approved of Biden’s handling of the economy.
  • Meanwhile, 60% of voters were supportive of the Biden administration’s move to create an emergency fund to cover uninsured deposits at two failed U.S. banks amid industry jitters last month.

More Than a Third of Voters Think Bank Collapses Signal Worsening Economy

The share of voters who said the following comes closest to their opinion on how bank collapses will or will not affect the economy:
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Survey conducted April 12-14, 2023, among a representative sample of 1,940 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Plurality of voters see March banking failures as bellwether for worsening economic conditions 

  • While banking industry leaders and experts have tried to drive home the message that the recent failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank did not represent a systemic collapse on par with the 2008 financial crisis, more than one-third of voters said they believe the bank collapses are a bad sign for the U.S. economy. 
  • More than 1 in 5 voters said the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s move to backstop all deposits at the banks was a positive move for the economy, though among Republicans, that share fell to 13%. 
  • Just about 1 in 5 voters believe the banking collapses were a one-time event that don’t portend a worsening economy. 

Layoffs, banking collapses drown out any economic optimism

With 76% of voters saying economic issues are “very important” when voting in 2024 elections, presidential hopefuls looking to unseat Biden will certainly pounce on voters’ unease about the state of the economy. 

Biden, whose approval rating is underwater in 40 states, has struggled to get the news of a strong economy into the minds of voters. Just 18% of voters said they have seen, read or heard something positive about the U.S. economy in April, compared to 40% who said they had encountered negative news. Most Americans say they are worried about widespread job losses, having been inundated in recent months with news of layoffs at big-name companies and the lingering threat of a recession

Furthermore, any glimmers of economic positivity — like slowing inflation — may have been snuffed out by the failure of three U.S. banks in March, which put the White House, monetary policymakers and investors on high alert. 

The April 12-14, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 1,940 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Amanda Jacobson Snyder previously worked at Morning Consult as a data reporter covering finance.

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