Ever since the Covid-19 “stay-at-home” orders began in mid-March, and businesses classified as “non-essential” were ordered closed, political observers have wondered how President Trump would ever recover in terms of his ratings on handling the economy. The President often touted the lockdowns as temporary and predicted a “V”-shaped economic dip, as a best-case scenario. Still, the effects will cut much longer and deeper than any economic model or politician can possibly measure. Despite rosy outlooks, it’s still unclear whether the second-quarter downturn will be followed by a third-quarter leveling, then a fourth-quarter boom, as the President, predictably, predicts.
The question of which candidate is better suited to handle the economy is often one of the most important indicators of how voters feel when considering their vote stacked up against their personal checkbook. If early polling is any indicator, and it can often be very wrong, the President has not yet lost the question of the economy despite the Coronavirus pandemic tanking all forms of economic growth, per CNN:
The latest CNN/SSRS national poll puts Trump’s approval rating on the economy at 50%. That’s just a point below Trump’s average since the 2018 midterm elections. It also matches what other polls are finding. Trump scored a 50% approval rating on the economy in an April Marist College poll and a 52% in AP-NORC survey.
Moreover, the President seems to still be winning on the economy vs. former Vice President Joe Biden. In the CNN poll, Trump held a 12-point advantage when voters were asked who they trusted most to handle the economy. That’s up from a 4-point margin for Trump last month.
The point worth underscoring is the last sentence of that pull quote. Trump’s numbers have increased since last month on the question of which candidate is best-suited to handle the economy. The answer to why the President number’s increased likely fall in who or what voters currently blame for the downturn. Democrats, including presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, have been pinning the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States squarely on Trump and his failures to adequately prepare. As a result, they argue, he is to blame for the economic disaster which is still unfolding with the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression.
Voters seem to be disagreeing with the President in one area, though, which in turn is letting them forgive him on the economy:
Trump’s steadiness makes a lot more sense, though, if Americans aren’t blaming Trump for the economic downturn. The coronavirus outbreak is a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that is affecting a lot of different countries. Most world leaders are experiencing bounces in their approval ratings.
Americans are likely giving Trump a lot of slack given the pandemic with concern to the economy. Polling shows, for instance, they prefer stay-at-home orders remain in place to ensure safety than opening back up the economy. Of course, Trump, perhaps believing that Americans’ patience will run out, is now pushing back on those stay at home orders.
For now, “better safe than sorry” is winning in the minds of many voters who fear re-opening the economy too soon could cause more harm than good. There are big pockets of the population that want to see lockdown restrictions eased up, and some governors are already loosening their orders, with Trump rooting them on. By and large, however, a great number of voters are just fine with staying home if they believe it is keeping them safe.
Economy aside, Biden is winning handily in national numbers, though, and if he can build a popular lead larger than Hillary Clinton, views on the economy might not matter:
The bad news for Trump is that if you look at almost every single poll, Trump is losing to Biden overall. Even as he is winning on the economy, he is behind.
The problem for the President is that there’s a lot more going on than the economy. Trump’s overall approval rating has consistently trailed his economic approval rating. Changes in Trump’s approval rating has been disconnected from shifts in the economy.
This dynamic will set up a question in November, with the Coronavirus lockdown likely in the rearview, for the most part, of which candidate voters think will lead the country back toward solid economic growth. For now, Trump is still ahead on that question. The next several months will decide where the answer lands in November.