GOP Holds Big Leads on Key Economic Issues Ahead of the November Elections, CNBC Survey Shows

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The third-quarter CNBC All-America Economic Survey finds some modest improvements in economic attitudes and in President Joe Biden's approval ratings across the country, but Americans still harbor mostly negative views on the economy and give the GOP double-digit leads on key economic and financial issues ahead of the November elections.

Biden's overall approval rating improved 10 points from the July survey with 46% approving and 50% disapproving. Approval of Biden's handling of the economy also rose 10 points, with 40% approving and 56% disapproving. While they were the president's best numbers since 2021, the improvement came largely from increased Democratic support. Approval by independents on the economy remained unchanged from the prior poll at just 25%.

CNBC All-America Economic Survey

Americans' views on the current state of the economy rose 5 points from the prior survey, yet still remain at a low level. Only 16% say the economy is excellent or good, up from 11% in July; 83% call the economy fair or poor, the third straight survey where the percentage has been above 80.

On the outlook, 27% expect the economy to improve in the next year, up from 22% in July, with 45% expecting it to get worse, down from 52% in July. The 45% who believe the economy will worsen is the third most pessimistic result in the 14-year history of the survey, eclipsed only by the surveys in July and a year ago.

Republicans have a 2-point advantage, 48%-46%, on party preference to control Congress. That's a toss-up with the poll's +/-3.5% margin for error, but Democrats have typically had substantial leads in this question when they have picked up congressional seats. The gap is the same as the prior survey, which came in at 44%-42%.

The poll of 800 registered voters nationwide was conducted Oct. 13-16 by Hart Research, who served as the Democratic pollsters, and Public Opinion Strategies, the Republican pollsters.

GOP lead

Republicans have a double-digit lead on the questions of which party would do a better job bringing down inflation, handling taxes, dealing with deficits and creating jobs. CNBC's Democratic and Republican pollsters agree the economic numbers look similar to 2014 when the GOP retained the House and took control of the Senate.

CNBC All-America Economic Survey

"We tested a number of economic issues and Republicans just kind of ran the table, all except for on the cost of health care," said Micah Roberts, partner at Public Opinion Strategies. "If this election were just about the economy, which we know it's not, but if it were just about the economy, this would be a complete shellacking."

Specifically, on the issue of which party is best to control inflation, Republicans have a 15-point lead, 42-27%; they lead 40-29% on dealing with taxes; 36% to 25% on reducing the deficit; and 43 -33% on creating jobs. Democrats have a 4-point lead, 42% to 38%, on "looking out for the middle class," but that's down from a 12-point margin they enjoyed in 2018. They have a commanding 44-28% margin on which party is best to reduce health-care costs.

"The way things are moving overall and the way things look, it's definitely more of an uphill climb for Democrats and maybe slightly slanted downwards for Republicans,'' said Jay Campbell, partner at Hart Research.

The poll also found:

  • 43% of American say higher interest rates have had a negative effect on their personal financial situation; 47% say they've been hurt by the stock market decline; and 77% say inflation has set them back financially.
  • Just 32% believe their home price will increase in the next year, the lowest level since the Covid pandemic began; 23% believe their home price will decline in the next year, the highest level since 2011.
  • Views on the stock market remain depressed — just a point above the worst levels ever recorded in the survey — with just 28% saying it's a good time to invest in the stock market.
  • 68% think the U.S. will soon be in a recession, including 9% who believe we are already in a recession.
  • The one bit of good economic news: 41% believe their wages will rise in the next year, the highest level since the pandemic.
  • Inflation ranks as the No. 1 concern for all Americans combined, but there are substantial differences by party. "Threats to democracy" is the No. 1 issues for Democrats, and "immigration and border security" is tops for Republicans, a point ahead of inflation. For independents, inflation is the leading concern and little else registers. Crime is the No. 3 issue for GOP voters, while abortion and climate change are tied for third among Democrats. For the moment, the war in Ukraine and jobs and unemployment are not seen as top issues by either party or independents.
  • Americans have less confidence in the Federal Reserve than they do Republicans or Democrats in Congress. Just 15% of the public say they have confidence in the Fed, compared with 22% for Republicans and 21% for Democrats in Congress.
  •  A 53% majority say the Fed's efforts to reduce inflation by raising interest rates will succeed. But when asked what's more important when it comes to the central bank's dual mandate — jobs or inflation — Americans are split. 47% say it's more important to protect jobs than fight inflation and 43% say the inflation fight should take precedence.

(Download the full survey here.)

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