A sour and angry America ready to punish the Dems this fall

Professionals who track American attitudes toward the economy say they can see trouble coming.

Angry voters, slammed by rising prices and scarred by two years of battling the pandemic, are set to punish Democrats in the midterm elections, according to some of the top experts on voter sentiment and behavior. consumers.

And with continued inflation and Russia’s war on Ukraine fueling uncertainty, there are indications that public sentiment is worsening, not improving, posing a growing threat to the Democrats’ already slim chances of retaining Congress, they say.

The widely watched consumer confidence survey from the University of Michigan recently hit its lowest level in nearly 11 years. An Associated Press/NORC survey showed nearly 70% of Americans think the economy is in bad shape, and 81% of respondents in a poll released by CNBC predict a recession this year. Gallup found that the share of Americans citing inflation as the main problem is now at its highest level since the 1980s.

“The sharp rise in gasoline, food and real estate prices has really caused a lot of hardship for many households,” said Richard Curtin, a veteran economist who leads the consumer survey. University of Michigan since 1976. “And the Biden administration made a critical mistake saying it would be transitory and people should just endure. It wasn’t transitory. A lot of people couldn’t just endure that. And that caused a great loss of confidence in [President Joe Biden’s] Strategies.”

Inside the West Wing, Biden and his top advisers know the window for changing the economic narrative through executive action is closing fast, according to a senior Biden aide and outside adviser. The options, they say, mainly include anything that can be done to lower oil prices, the biggest drag on the party right now. But even that could only have a limited impact.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics and lead author of a closely tracked model that links political outcomes to economic conditions, said it was one of the toughest environments for the incumbent party he has ever seen. seen, despite a booming job market.

Moody’s is working on its model for the 2022 midterms, and Zandi said that going forward, Democrats are likely to have a very tough road ahead either in the House, where they have a very slim margin, or in the Senate, which is split 50-50.

“Most Americans have never experienced inflation like this, especially on gas prices, and it has upset everyone,” he said. “Behavioral economics reveals that people hate inflation more than they love low unemployment. And the pandemic still colors everything. People have been there. »

None of this is lost on Democratic aides and economists inside and outside the White House. A senior Biden official, who declined to be identified by name because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, said efforts to free up more oil and further reduce bottlenecks strangulation of the supply chain would continue.

And the president will point to strong positives in the economy, including continued strong job growth, a large number of available positions, higher wages and an unemployment rate of just 3.6%, a pandemic low. Most of these numbers are much better than economists predicted a year ago.

“There are still things we can do and arguments we can make, but frankly it would have been better if Vladimir Putin hadn’t invaded Ukraine,” the aide said. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Inflation was rising rapidly long before the war suddenly pushed energy and food prices even higher and injected new volatility into global markets that were previously celebrating the end of the worst of the pandemic. However, other indicators were moving in the administration’s direction.

Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago professor who served as a top adviser to President Barack Obama, said the economy appears to be a headwind for Democrats. But he said some things could be fine by Election Day in November.

“There are still some glimmers of light for the White House right now,” Goolsbee said. “The pressures on the supply chain could really ease. And the virus, which was much worse than expected, was the main driver of everything. And if we’re actually going to get out of the grip of the virus, that should reverse some of the sourness that currently emerges from all consumer polls and surveys.

There’s a lot to reverse, at least according to the latest survey conducted by the AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago.

“With rising energy and consumer prices, 69% consider the national economy to be in poor shape,” Marjorie Connelly, public affairs and media research fellow at the NORC Center, said in a note. . “Fifty-five percent say they don’t blame… Biden for high gas prices, but 65 percent disapprove of how he’s handling the economy. Americans are more likely to think his policies have hurt the national economy more than helped it.”

The survey offered cause for optimism for Democrats, given that a majority of Americans do not blame Biden for rising gas prices. The numbers also generally split along partisan lines in most polls, with Republicans more likely to blame the president for economic problems. Most people also feel confident in their own personal finances, despite worrying about others and the national situation, the survey found. And they worry a lot.

“It’s just a tough road for Biden and Democrats to travel right now,” Curtin said.


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