Grim economic outlook among voters gives Trump an advantage

U.S. President Joe Biden hosts western hemisphere leaders at the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity Leaders’ Summit in the White House in Washington, U.S., November 3, 2023. 

Leah Millis | Reuters

A deeply pessimistic view of the U.S. economy among registered voters was a driving force behind new polling that shows support for former president Donald Trump outpacing President Joe Biden in five out of six key presidential swing states, one year ahead of the 2024 election.

A survey released Sunday by The New York Times and Siena College found that if the election were held today, Trump would lead Biden in hypothetical matchups in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada. The margins were between 4 and 10 percentage points, with a survey sampling error of between 4.4 and 4.8 points per state.

The only state where voters said they would choose Biden over Trump was Wisconsin, where the president led the Republican front-runner by 2 points, within the margin of error.

During the 2020 election, Biden won all six of these battleground states, albeit some by very slim margins.

The most striking result from the survey was not the outcome in any particular state, however. It was the whopping 81% of registered voters overall who said the condition of the U.S. economy was either “Fair” or “Poor,” compared with just 19% who said it was “Good” or “Excellent.”

This split persisted despite the fact that Biden has traveled the country for the better part of a year, promoting his “Bidenomics” agenda and touting the economic gains made under his presidency.

The numbers are hardly debatable: U.S. GDP grew at 5% last quarter, inflation is down 60% from its peak and the unemployment rate has remained below 4% for 20 months.

Still, voters say they aren’t feeling the benefits of the economy’s so called soft landing, after the bust and boom of the Covid pandemic era.

These issues will be top of mind for voters next year; 57% of respondents said economic issues would be the most important factor in their vote. Social issues, like abortion and guns, will be the prime factor for 29% of poll participants.

The survey points to troubling signs ahead for the Biden reelection campaign. The president’s favorability numbers are below what Trump or former President Barack Obama’s were at this point in the race, according to the RealClearPolitics average.

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A Biden campaign spokesman on Sunday downplayed the results.

“Predictions more than a year out tend to look a little different a year later,” said Kevin Munoz, before highlighting some instances of early polls that proven incorrect. “We’ll win in 2024 by putting our heads down and doing the work, not by fretting about a poll,” he said.

Still, the Times/Siena poll is far from the only survey to suggest that Biden’s economic message is not breaking through to reach voters.

An NBC News poll released last month found the GOP advantage on the economy to be the highest recorded in more than three decades of NBC News polling.

In line with the NYT/Siena poll, 49% of NBC respondents favored Republicans to best handle economic issues, compared with 28% who said they trusted Democrats to do it.

In a telling move, independent voters in the poll gave Republicans a 25 point advantage when it came to handling the economy.

The poll also found that a majority of voters disapproved of Biden’s economic track record, 59% to 37%.

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