With many Americans focused on rising prices, more of them describe the economy as getting worse than they have at any point during President Joe Biden’s first year in office, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll.
Even Democrats are skeptical: By a margin of 10 points, they say the economy is getting worse, rather than getting better. For most of Donald Trump’s four years in office, a smaller share of Americans had as negative a view of the economy than the share that do today — though in the spring of 2020, just as the recession was declared over, the share of Americans believing the economy was getting worse briefly soared to 59%, higher than the percentage today.
The more pressing personal concern is inflation. In December, the increase in prices over the previous year was a 40-year high of 7%, with big jumps in prices of gasoline, cars, and the cost of food. Americans are twice as likely to say their own family’s financial situation has gotten worse in the last year than to say it has improved. More than four times as many (46%) view inflation, rather than unemployment (10%), as the bigger economic problem today.
Inflation clearly impacts President Biden’s low overall job-approval rating (38% approve, 51% disapprove) and his even lower rating on handling the economy. The President’s current rating on the economy (35% approve this week) is the lowest during his presidency; more than half disapprove.
More than eight in 10 Americans regard inflation as a serious problem; 58% describe it as very serious. In contrast, earlier this month, when Americans were asked about the seriousness of unemployment, 69% called it a serious national problem, but less than one-third thought it was very serious.
Americans across the income spectrum have similar feelings about how serious of an issue inflation currently is. Republicans (74%) are more likely to say it is a very serious problem than Democrats (46%), though people from both parties are unlikely to say it is a minor problem or not a problem.
A majority of Americans believe it will take more than two years for the economy to recover from the pandemic. Asked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, 40% say it has made their economic situation worse, while 14% say it has made it better. Americans with a high school degree or less (46%) and those with a family income below $50,000 (49%) are most likely to say that their financial situation has worsened since the start of the pandemic. Only 8% and 11% of individuals in these respective groups say their situation has improved, compared to almost a quarter (23%) of those with a postgraduate degree or family income of $100,000 or more.
President Biden has linked inflation to rising levels of corporate concentration, which he says have reduced competition and allowed a few big players in each industry to raise prices. Many Americans agree with this assessment. Nearly half of Americans give each of corporate interest in maximizing profits, and the pandemic, “a lot” of the blame for the rise in inflation. And 38% cite a lack of competition as a reason for inflation.
Most Americans say the workforce needs help in managing inflation. By more than four to one, they favor having employers give their employees a raise to compensate for the rise in inflation. Support for increasing workers’ salaries to help them manage inflation is bipartisan, with majorities of Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, agreeing this should be done. Two out of three retired adults agree.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between January 22 and January 25, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample.