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CNN Poll: Public views of the economy are on the rise, but remain dim

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 02 FEB 24 05:01 ET

Updated: 02 FEB 24 08:54 ET

By Ariel Edwards-Levy, CNN

(CNN) — The public’s long-held pessimism about the economy shows signs of easing since last year, a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS finds. But even with the uptick, many Americans’ views of the economy – and the nation as a whole – remain bleak.

Only 35% of Americans say that things in the country today are going well, but that’s an improvement from the 28% who felt positively about the state of affairs last fall. And while just 26% of Americans say they feel the economy is starting to recover from the problems it faced in the past few years, that’s also up from 20% last summer and 17% in December 2022.

Overall, 26% of Americans currently say that economic conditions have stabilized, and 48% say they believe the economy remains in a downturn. Yet, the US economy has been growing strongly since 2020, and the jobs report released Friday showed a stunning gain of 353,000 jobs last month, a stronger-than expected kickoff for 2024.

Of those who think the economy is recovering, nearly three-quarters (73%) say President Joe Biden’s economic policies have helped to improve things. An even broader 83% of those who say the economy is continuing to devolve say his policies have instead made things worse.

Views of the nation’s economic trajectory are inflected by partisanship, with the uptick in sentiment coming mainly among Democrats (49% now say the economy is recovering, up 10 percentage points from July) and independents (24%, up 7 points). Just 6% of Republicans say they see a recovery beginning, nearly unchanged from last summer.

But within the Democratic Party, there’s also a significant age divide, with most younger Democrats less likely to see the economy on the upswing. About one-third of Democrats younger than 45 (35%) say that the economy is starting to recover, compared with 63% of those 45 and older. And more broadly, a narrow majority of Democratic adults younger than 45 (54%) say that things in the country are going badly, a view shared by only about one-quarter of their older counterparts (22%).

Recent Commerce Department numbers show the US economy remaining robust, CNN reported in January, with the first jobs report for 2024 expected to look strong.

When Americans who say the economy remains in a downturn were asked to explain why they feel that way, most cite inflation and the cost of living generally (50%) or the price of specific items like food (9%) or housing (7%), with many pointing to their own financial situations. Another 13% who feel the economy is still in decline cite Biden or Democratic policies, and 9% name wages and income. Fewer mention jobs, gas prices or the stock market.

“Everything that matters in life is continuing to get more expensive, regardless of what the inflation index says,” wrote one Republican from Georgia who responded to the poll.

“Everything is still expensive and many people are struggling with that,” said a Republican-leaning independent from Louisiana. “Consumer debt is way up. Wall Street is doing well but that doesn’t help the average worker.”

Overall, 42% of all Americans say their financial situation is worse than it was a year ago, down from 49% who felt that way in December of 2022 when the nation’s inflation rate was nearly double what it is today. In the new poll, 37% say they’re doing about the same as a year ago, and 20% that they’re now doing better.

A 55% majority of Americans overall say they feel Biden’s policies have worsened economic conditions in the country, while just 26% believe his policies have improved conditions and another 19% say they’ve had no effect – numbers that are nearly unchanged from last summer. A near-universal 91% of Republicans say that Biden’s policies have worsened the economy, while a more modest 55% majority of Democrats say that his policies have improved things. Biden’s approval rating for handling the economy, which hasn’t broken the 40% mark since December 2021, currently stands at 37% among the full public.

Immigration and foreign policy

Biden’s lowest issue approval rating in the poll comes on his handling of immigration, with just 30% of Americans approving. That number reflects heightened concerns about the state of affairs at the US-Mexico border. Asked whether or not the current situation at the border is a crisis, 79% of Americans – including majorities across party lines – say that it is, matching the elevated level of concern last seen in April 2021.

And the poll also finds a rise in hardline immigration sentiments. In multiple polls taken during Donald Trump’s presidency, the overwhelming majority of Americans said they favored developing a plan to allow some undocumented immigrants living in the US to become legal residents; in 2019, 15% or fewer said that the government should instead make it a priority to deport all people living in the US illegally. The share favoring mass deportations, while still a minority, has now roughly doubled to 31%. A 54% majority of Republicans now say the US should prioritize deportation, up from 32% who felt that way in 2019.

Americans give Biden a 41% approval rating for his handling of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while 34% approve of his handling of the war between Israel and Hamas. That disparity highlights the president’s particular weakness with his base on issues relating to Israel. While most Democrats give him positive ratings on Ukraine (72% approve), only about half (51%) say they approve of his handling of the Israel-Hamas war; among Democrats younger than 45, that falls to just 35%.

Overall, a slim plurality (37%) of Americans say that the US is doing about the right amount to help Israel in its war with Hamas, while 33% say it’s doing too much and 29% that the US is doing too little. The public is closely split between saying the US is doing too much (35%) or about the right amount (34%) to help Ukraine in its war with Russia, with 30% saying the US is doing too little to assist there. Partisan views of the two conflicts differ sharply. Republicans are roughly twice as likely as Democrats (40% to 19%) to say that the US is doing too little to help Israel. By contrast, Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans (41% to 21%) to say that the US isn’t doing enough to help Ukraine.

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS from January 25-30 among a random national sample of 1,212 adults drawn from a probability-based panel. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results among the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this story.

This story has been updated with additional information.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

NYC grocery shopping

**This image is for use with this specific article only** People shop in a supermarket in the Manhattan borough of New York city on January 27, 2024.

Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

02 Feb 24

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