WASHINGTON (AP) — Most Americans say they don’t blame President Joe Biden for high gas prices, but give his economic leadership low marks amid fears of inflation and deep pessimism about economic conditions.
About 7 in 10 Americans say the country’s economy is in bad shape and about two-thirds disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In addition, Americans are more likely to say that his policies have hurt the economy rather than helped it.
However, less than half say the increase in gas prices is Biden’s fault, a reflection of how the country is processing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting increase in costs. of the oil.
The polls hint at a paradox in which the public sees Biden as in power without necessarily being in control. His hopes for a lasting economic renaissance have faded as Americans grapple with higher food and energy costs. And the promise of a country no longer under the sway of the pandemic has been supplanted by the uncertainty of war in Europe.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Adam Newago, 53, a truck driver from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He sees inflation as spiraling outward with higher fuel prices driving up shipping costs and ultimately driving up prices throughout the broader economy.
Newago said he reluctantly voted for President Donald Trump in 2020, while his wife voted for Biden. He feels that inflation at its highest point in 40 years and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan have led to a “disaster”.
Overall, 65% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the nation’s economy, including 96% of Republicans and 36% of Democrats. The overall share saying they disapprove increased from 57% in December 2021 to 47% last July.
Gasoline prices trump other types of inflation when it comes to concerns ordinary Americans have about price increases affecting their bottom line. A whopping 68% said they are very concerned about gas prices, while 59% expressed the same degree of concern about rising grocery prices.
Gasoline prices were high before Putin began building up forces on the Ukrainian border, but have risen since the start of the war without producing a lot of additional oil to enter the market.
Tammy Baca, 52, who works in education in Fort Worth, Texas, said gas station prices are a function of geopolitics.
You’re going to have to suffer, you know? said Baca, a Democrat. “It’s almost like we’re participating in a war effort, without even being at war.”
Many Americans agree with 55% saying it is a higher priority for the US to effectively sanction Russia than to limit the damage to the US economy.
Housing is the dominant expense in the government’s measure of inflation, but less than half of Americans (40%) say they are very concerned about higher-than-usual housing costs affecting their household finances. Another 24% are somewhat worried.
Fifty-three percent of Americans also say they are very concerned about higher prices for other goods and services.
Overall, Americans are more likely to say higher-than-usual gas prices are due more to factors outside Biden’s control than to Biden’s policies, 55% to 44%.
Still, more people think Biden’s policies are hurting the economy than helping it, 48% to 24%. Another 28% say they haven’t made much of a difference. The pushback comes after Biden steered a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and a $1 trillion infrastructure package through Congress, though his agenda on economic fairness and clean energy stalled in Congress in December. past.
For Jennifer Smith, the aid package was a financial lifeline. The 50-year-old woman is living with a disability and lives with her daughter in Zanesville, Ohio. Smith voted for Trump in 2020, but she didn’t like the January 6, 2020 storming of the US Capitol. She not only received a direct payment from the government, but also $250 a month in the expanded child tax credit, which disappeared as inflation continued.
“I know it sounds crazy, but I’m thrilled to be able to pay the bills,” Smith said. “The way things are now, I can’t without borrowing, steal from Peter to pay Paul.”
Eighty-eight percent of Democrats say high gas prices are out of Biden’s control, while 79% of Republicans specifically blame his policies, which many said in follow-up interviews limited gas production. US energy. Most Republicans say Biden’s policies are hurting the economy, but among Democrats, 45% say they’re helping and 39% say they’re not making much of a difference.
The poll suggests that support among Democrats for Biden’s economic leadership is decidedly lukewarm, especially among those under 45. That’s a significant difference from the loyalty the GOP expressed for Trump, who in March 2018 enjoyed an 84% approval rating on the economy from his fellow Republicans. .
In yet another sign of how partisanship is shaping views on the economy and inflation, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are very concerned about the impact on their homes of higher gas prices, food, housing, and other goods and services. .
Overall, 69% of Americans say the country’s economy is in bad shape, compared to 31% who say it’s in good shape. The share that says the economy is poor is up slightly from 64% in December. Still, 63% say their personal financial situation is good, a number that has remained remarkably stable since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for Biden, his supporters say he has been held back by Congress and the challenges created by the disruptions and crises that are part of the US presidency.
Mary Payne, 75, a nurse in California, said she wouldn’t say Biden’s performance has been “excellent,” though it has been “good” and “probably fair.” She said that she opposed Trump in 2020 and sees Republicans right now as obstructive.
“I don’t know how many obstacles are put up for him to do what he wants to do,” Payne said. “I think the heart is there. I think he cares.”
Associated Press poll reporter Hannah Fingerhut contributed.
The AP-NORC survey of 1,082 adults was conducted March 17-21 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The sampling error margin for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.