Is it the message or the messenger?
“The Economy Is Great: Why Do Americans Blame Biden?” asked Alan S. Binder for the Wall Street Journal on October 18, 2023.
“There is a sharp disconnect between the U.S. economy’s underlying realities, which are good, and people’s attitudes about the economy, which remain sour,” noted Binder. “Why does President Biden’s economic performance get such bad marks when unemployment is near record lows, net jobs are still being created at a breakneck pace, and inflation has fallen notably?”
“Biden’s Economy Is Great Everywhere Except in the Polls,” agreed Matthew Yglesias for the Washington Post on October 22, 2023. “As the US economy continues to improve, President Joe Biden continues to not get credit for it. Only 35% of voters in seven swing states trust Biden on the economy, according to a Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll, with 51% saying it was better under Donald Trump.”
Theories for this perceived disconnect abound. Some pundits, journalists, and politicos accuse poll respondents of outright lying.
“Joe Biden’s economy is, honestly, pretty amazing: How come he doesn’t get credit?” raged Kirk Swearingen for Salon last week. “Many voters claim Biden’s economy is bad and Trump’s was better. What fantasy version of America do they live in?”
“As you stand in line at that restaurant or circle the mall parking lot looking for a space, do you wonder about the disparity between what people apparently tell pollsters about the economy and what you can see with your own two eyes?” complained Swearingen.
Other pundits don’t think poll respondents are lying, exactly; just wrong. Or perhaps, ignorant of economic matters.
“US economy going strong under Biden — Americans don’t believe it,” wrote Dominic Rushe for The Guardian in September. “Despite a strong economy, an exclusive Guardian poll shows mistrust in media and government means disbelief in both parties.”
“Americans do not trust the government’s economic news — or the media’s reporting of it — according to a Harris poll conducted exclusively for the Guardian that presents the White House with a major hurdle as it pushes Biden’s economic record ahead of next year’s election,” wrote Rushe.
“The US has roared back from the Covid recession by official measures,” he added. “But two-thirds of Americans are unhappy about the economy despite consistent reports that inflation is easing and unemployment is close to a 50-year low. And the poll suggests many are unaware of or don’t believe the positive economic news the government has reported.”
“Why Biden’s strong economy feels so bad to most Americans,” explained Allison Morrow for CNN on September 7, 2023. “The vibes are off.”
“By almost any objective measure, Americans are doing much better economically than they were nearly three years ago, when President Joe Biden took office,” began Morrow. “Still, a majority — 58% — say Biden’s policies have made economic conditions worse, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.”
Yet as they make generalized pronouncements like “By almost any objective measure, Americans are doing much better economically than they were nearly three years ago,” even CNN can’t help but note: “The median US home price has risen to $416,100 from $258,000 in 2019,” and “Sharply higher prices in 2021 and 2022 marked a painful economic moment for households around the world.”
Independent media outlets, meanwhile, are having a field day. It isn’t that Americans don’t trust President Joe Biden on the economy, they argue: Americans don’t trust the media.
“Pundits: ‘Ignorance’ Makes Americans Give ‘Wrong’ Answers To Economic Confidence Poll,” quipped Matt Taibbi for Racket News.
“Have these people considered that questions about the economy aren’t a political referendum on Joe Biden for the people answering them?” wrote Taibbi. “That they may be just having a hard time paying bills and can’t give The Guardian or Paul Krugman the answers they want? This has been true for huge numbers of people in this country for decades. Maybe it’s time to ask more about that, instead of calling them stupid again?”
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)