The 2020 election may depend on how Americans perceive the state of the economy when they vote. Just in the last few weeks, potential voters have witnessed a jittery stock market and many have heard warnings about the possible end to years of good times. In this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, the public gives the direction of the economy a negative rating, an outcome rarely seen during President Donald Trump’s more than two and a half years in office.
Evaluations of a president’s economic management are usually partisan. These are no exception. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to describe the economy as getting better.
This week’s results reflect a month-long slide in economic optimism for Trump. In nearly every Economist/YouGov Poll taken during his administration, more have described the economy as getting better than have believed it was getting worse. A year into his term, there was a 14-point gap between the share saying it was getting better (37%) and the share thinking it was getting worse (23%). However, in January 2019, a year after those positive results, Americans were – briefly – less positive, and the gap was in the other directions: 26 percent described the economy as getting better, 35 percent said it was getting worse.
That negative view turned around very quickly, and Americans had remained optimistic – at least until now. In the last month, the proportions saying the economy is improving has dropped five points, while the numbers saying it is getting worse has gone up eight.
Most of that change has been driven by a very large increase in the number of Democrats saying the economy is getting worse. In late July, just 36 percent of Democrats said the economy was worsening; this week 58 percent do, an increase of 22 points. Republicans have changed much less. Still, the percentage of Republicans saying the economy is improving has fallen seven points, from 63 percent to 56 percent.
Independents have changed, too: at the end of July 32 percent of independents said the economy was getting better, 23 percent thought it was getting worse. The nine-point positive assessment has become a six-point pessimistic one. 23 percent of independents today believe the economy is getting better, 29 percent say that it is getting worse.
Still, the economy remains the President’s best issue area. 48 percent of the public approves of how he is handling the economy; 40 percent disapprove. That is only marginally worse than the public’s assessment of the President handling of the economy in late July, when 50% approved and 38% did not. The President’s economic rating remains much better than his overall rating: 41% of the public approves of how he is handling his job overall; 51 percent disapprove.
Much of the increasingly negative view appears to be based on the stock market’s performance. This week, more think a bear market is on the way than before: 32 percent say the market will be lower 12 months from now than it is today – the highest percentage saying this during the entire Trump Administration. Those with annual family incomes of at least $100,000 are even more likely to think this.