President Donald Trump’s ace in the hole has been the economy. Even though a majority of voters have disapproved of his job performance overall during most of his presidency, more voters than not have given him a thumbs-up on the economy.
But Trump now may be seeing this advantage dissipate. His approval on the economy has seen a dramatic decline since the beginning of the year, and he’s lost his edge on the economy over former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump’s economic approval was at one of the strongest levels of his presidency at the beginning of the year. He averaged a 56% approval rating on the economy in a January and February average of polls from ABC News/Washington Post, Fox News, NBC News/Wall Street Journal and Quinnipiac University. His disapproval rating on the economy in these same polls was just 38%.
In July, these same polls give him a 49% approval rating to a 47% disapproval rating.
When you look at all the polls, you come to a very similar finding. Trump’s net approval rating on the economy (approval minus disapproval) has dropped from +16 points in January to just +1 point in July.
His declining economic approval rating is no doubt partially because he has become less popular overall. His net approval rating overall has declined about 5 points since January. Still, that’s only about a third of the decline in his economic approval rating.
It does seem that the economic downturn the country has suffered since February is impacting Trump’s economic approval disproportionally.
Furthermore, a look at the data reveals that Trump is no longer the clear winner when it comes to who voters trust on the economy.
Biden actually does 2 points better than Trump when matched up on the economy in an average of the ABC News/Washington Post, Fox News and Quinnipiac polls. That’s best described as “too close to call,” but that itself is quite noteworthy.
Trump led on the economy in all three polls when the question was last asked by each pollster. He held as much as a double-digit advantage over Biden in the ABC News/Washington Post in March. Trump even had a 12-point lead on the economy as late as May in CNN polling.
The good news for the President is that the economy is still his strongest issue. Any talk about the economy helps him relative to speaking about the coronavirus or race relations, where his net approval ratings are below -20 points.
The bad news is that Trump isn’t winning on any of the major issues that are shaping the campaign.
He trails Biden by at least 10 points on coronavirus. He is down by closer to 20 points on race relations. And now he’s basically even on the economy.
There’s simply no record of a presidential candidate not leading on any major issue and still pulling out a victory.
Therefore, Trump’s goals in the final three months of this campaign are clear: If he can’t cut his deficit on the coronavirus, he must at a minimum get voters to think he is the better steward of the economy.
If the President doesn’t turn things around, the lack of an advantage on any of the major issues will almost certainly prove fatal for his campaign.