Americans’ views of President Joe Biden have rebounded slightly from their dismal outlook over the summer, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. But public assessment of the economy remains grim, and Americans remain largely unconvinced that Biden, Congress or the government as a whole are meaningfully addressing major issues facing the country.
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Biden’s overall job approval rating has recovered modestly from its worst summer doldrums: 44% of US adults approve, up from 38% in CNN’s June and July polling. Biden’s ratings have risen 9 percentage points among Democrats and 8 points among independents since that previous poll, with the President’s image also seeing particularly marked improvement among Black Americans (up 17 points) and adults younger than age 45 (11 points). Enthusiasm about Biden’s presidency, however, remains scarce, with around 15% of the public strongly approving of his overall job performance. By contrast, roughly 4 in 10 strongly disapprove.
Just 22% of Americans rate economic conditions in the country as good, with 41% calling conditions somewhat poor, and another 37% saying they’re very poor. The percentage saying conditions are good is a slight uptick from 18% this summer. The public’s short-term outlook is somewhat more positive, with 40% expecting that economic conditions in the country will be good a year from now, and only 26% expecting them to remain very poor. That optimism is driven mostly by Democrats, 63% of whom expect economic conditions to improve to that level by next year. Most independents and Republicans, by contrast, expect conditions to remain poor over that time.
Biden’s ratings for dealing with economic issues, while improved from CNN’s last survey, remain lower than his approval rating overall. Just 32% of the public approves of his handling of inflation (up from 25% in summer) and 36% of his handling of the economy as a whole (up from 30%). Roughly 4 in 10 Americans currently approve of Biden’s handling of gun policy (37%), immigration (38%), helping the middle class (41%) or foreign affairs (42%), with a 55% majority approving of the way he’s handled the Covid-19 pandemic.
Half of Americans say that Biden’s policies have served to worsen economic conditions, 26% that his policies have improved conditions, and 24% that they’ve had no effect. This is a slight improvement from a CNN poll taken in April and May, when 19% thought Biden’s economic policies were helping and 55% that they were worsening conditions. Roughly half of Democrats (53%) now say Biden’s policies have helped, up from 45% in spring, as do 20% of independents, up from 11%.
More broadly, the public remains largely underwhelmed by the federal response to a range of economic and domestic issues. Most Americans say the US government is doing too little to reduce the rate of violent crime (81%), reduce inflation (73%), protect democracy (72%), prevent a recession (72%) or help people like them financially (about 70%). In an exception to the general sentiment for further action, about half say the government is doing the right amount to control the spread of Covid, with the rest split between saying it’s doing too much and too little.
Ahead of November’s midterm elections, a majority of Americans also take a dim view of efforts made by national lawmakers to deal with the biggest issues: 62% say that the current Congress has done nothing to effectively address the problems facing the country. Most Republicans (87%) and independents (67%) say Congress hasn’t done anything effective, an opinion shared by just one-third of Democrats.
Perceptions of Biden’s and Congress’ effectiveness are bleaker in 50 of the country’s most competitive congressional districts than they are nationally. Just 31% of US adults living in those districts say Congress has done anything to effectively address the nation’s problems, and just 21% say Biden’s policies have improved the country’s economic conditions. Biden’s job approval rating in these districts is 42%, similar to where he stands nationally; his economic approval rating is 31%, slightly lower than in the country as a whole.
Americans do give Biden some credit for his work with legislators, the polling suggests. Roughly half, 49%, say he’s demonstrated an ability to work effectively with Congress – the share saying this includes 79% of Democrats, 50% of independents, and nearly a fifth of Republicans. About half of US adults also credit Biden with being honest and trustworthy (48%) and caring about people like them (46%), although both those numbers have fallen from the majorities who said the same in April 2021. Only about 41% think Biden will unite the country and not divide it, down from 53% last spring. And in the biggest shift, barely over one-third now see Biden as inspiring confidence (35%), down from 52% previously.
Only 41% of Americans think Biden is doing a good job of keeping the important promises he made during the 2020 presidential campaign, down from 59% in April 2021. That’s lower than his two predecessors heading into their first midterms: 52% said Donald Trump was keeping his campaign promises in October 2018, while 51% said the same of Barack Obama in September 2010. About three-quarters of Democrats think Biden is doing a good job keeping his promises (75%), but younger Democrats are less likely than older ones to say so, with only about 57% of Democrats under 35 crediting Biden with living up to his campaign promises.
The new CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS on September 3 through October 5 among a random national sample of 1,982 adults initially reached by mail. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The survey includes an oversample of adults living in 50 competitive congressional districts, with districts chosen based on publicly available race ratings at the time the sample was chosen. That subset was weighted to its proper share of the overall adult population of the United States.
CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.