The economy matters, and for many, the president is responsible

December 11, 2020, 1:00 PM GMT+0

About three-quarters of Americans (72%) — both Democrats (71%) and Republicans (79%) — describe jobs and the economy as an issue that is very important to them. For nearly a quarter (22%) in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, it is the most important issue, just behind health care (25%). Three in 10 Republicans (31%) rank jobs and the economy at the top of their important issue list.

Democrats prioritize health care (34%) over the economy and jobs (19%). Still, around seven in ten (71%) say the economy is also very important to them.

Republican concern about jobs has been consistent throughout Donald Trump’s presidency. But, like other Americans, nearly a year after the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the jump in unemployment brought on by the pandemic, they aren’t so sure about the state of the economy now. A third of Republicans (32%) now believe the economy is getting worse. That figure is even higher among the public as a whole: 47% of all Americans now believe the economy is getting worse.

Political affiliation often affects how Americans perceive the state of the economy. As President-Elect Joe Biden works on his presidential transition, and the Democrat comes closer to moving into the White House on January 20, Republicans are starting to think more negatively about the future of the economy. But Biden’s victory has not changed the minds of Democrats. Only 8% of them currently see an improving economy; three in five (61%) still see it getting worse.

As the pandemic raged and joblessness grew in the spring and early summer, more than half the public thought the economy was getting worse. But as Election Day neared, Republicans saw some economic improvement, with more than three in five claiming the economy was improving.

In the final Economist/YouGov pre-election poll, only 11% of Republicans thought the economy was getting worse. That percentage today has nearly tripled, and last week’s jobs report didn’t help. In the last two weeks, the share of Republicans saying the economy was getting worse has risen eight points, from 24% before Thanksgiving to 32% now. Today, more Republicans say it is getting worse than think it is getting better. Evaluations of the economy are often linked to whomever occupies the White House. President Trump has been judged positively on how he has dealt with the economy. This week, 47% approve of how he is handling the economy, while 43% disapprove. The incumbent’s rating on the economy has always outpaced his overall approval rating: this week, just 40% approve of his overall performance, while 52% disapprove.

Most Americans give the President a critical role in affecting jobs and the economy. Half believe he (or someday, perhaps, she) can do a lot about the economy. Half of both Republicans and Democrats say that. It also doesn’t matter whether a person believes the economy is getting better or getting worse: more than half in each group say the President matters “a lot” when it comes to improving the economy.

President Trump receives both credit and blame for where the country is now, though blame seems easier to allocate. Half of those who say the economy is getting worse give President Trump all or most of the blame, while most of those who say it is getting better give the President only some – or none – of the credit.

There are concerns about President-elect Biden’s impact on the economy. In this week’s poll, nearly as many (36%) believe the economy will get worse under his Administration as say it will get better (39%). More than three in four Republicans believe the economy will get worse with Biden as President.

Related: One-third of Trump supporters believe Joe Biden will not be inaugurated in January

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adults interviewed online between December 6 - 8, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.3% for the overall sample.

Image: Getty