Why Don’t People Trust Biden on Inflation?


Perhaps it’s because many Americans reasonably sense that Biden and his allies are not truly prioritizing the most urgent economic issue they face: inflation.

Surveys consistently show the public’s deep dissatisfaction with Biden’s economic management. The latest Gallup poll, for example, found that only 38 percent of Americans have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence that he will effectively handle the economy.

These confidence and approval ratings are typical of an economy in a deep recession.

“Only Bush had lower confidence ratings from Americans than Biden has since last year — by the end of his second term, amid the Great Recession, only 34% of Americans trusted his economic abilities,” Gallup notes.

The Rose-Colored Glasses of Progressive Pundits

Progressive pundits are quite flustered by these polls. They argue that the polls are irrational and assert that Biden’s economy is stronger than the public acknowledges. They highlight that we avoided a recession, unemployment is low, real income growth is positive throughout Biden’s presidency, the stock market is thriving, and economic growth has been robust.

“By normal measures, though, the U.S. economy isn’t in bad shape. In fact, it’s performing better than most of its global peers,” Paul Krugman claimed recently.

President Joe Biden meets with New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman on August 14, 2023, in the Oval Office. (Adam Schultz/White House via Flickr)

Critics argue against this rosy view of the economy. Unemployment is low, but it was lower during Trump’s presidency. Real incomes have risen during Biden’s term, but only slightly. Income growth has not only lagged behind the growth seen under Trump, but it has also lagged behind historical averages. The stock market is rising, but household net worth has grown slower than during the Trump administration. Adjusted for inflation, household net worth increased by just 0.7 percent through Biden’s first three years, compared with 16 percent through Trump’s first three years.

It’s well-known by now that inflation is the specter haunting the Biden administration. According to the Economist/YouGov poll, seventy-four percent of the public rank inflation as “very important.” The concern over “jobs and the economy” follows at 69 percent, with other issues trailing significantly. Inflation is regarded as the country’s most pressing issue by 25 percent of respondents, while jobs and the economy follow at 12 percent, and immigration at 10 percent.

Yet, in the eyes of the progressive establishment’s media outlets, there’s continued denial of this fact. For instance, Slate recently ran an article titled “Inflation is not destroying Joe Biden.” Moving past a peculiar discussion about whether Biden’s economy is worse than Jimmy Carter’s and familiar complaints about Americans’ supposed delusions about the economy, the piece strangely claims that the issue cannot be inflation because inflation is “functionally over.”

Inflation is not over, functionally or otherwise. In the first quarter of this year, inflation surged. The personal consumption expenditure (PCE) price index, favored by the Fed, rose at a 3.2 percent rate, and core PCE inflation rose at a 3.6 percent rate. These measures were growing at two percent or less at the end of last year, meaning the public has witnessed an acceleration of inflation in recent months.

Trapped by Progressive Democrat Extremism

One might expect a determined administration aiming for re-election to develop policies that could effectively reduce inflation. Yet at every turn, Biden seems to promote policies that could worsen inflation, including student loan “forgiveness,” subsidies for home-buyers, green energy mandates, and migration-magnet programs that increase demand for consumer goods and housing. His response to inflation often blames corporate greed and laments smaller candy bars and pricier ice-cream cones.

One reason for this could be the Democrats’ leftward shift over the past two decades. Gallup polling reveals that in 2004, 26 percent of Democrats identified as conservative or very conservative on economic issues. This dropped to 21 percent by 2014, and in this year’s poll, it has plummeted to five percent. While the fraction describing themselves as moderate remains at 44 percent since 2004, those identifying as liberal or very liberal has increased from 28 percent to 49 percent.

President Joe Biden on September 1, 2023, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Adam Schultz/White House via Flickr)

As a result, Biden would need to alienate over half of his party to adopt even moderate policies aimed at curbing inflation. Adopting a conservative pro-growth agenda to alleviate inflation by boosting the supply side of the economy would leave him with little support within his party. Previously, it was possible to form a coalition of Democrat conservatives and moderates to back policies, but now these groups barely match the leftwing faction, which comprises most activists and vocal supporters.

Polling indicates that many of Biden’s supporters believe he has handled inflation and the economy well. The Economist/YouGov poll shows that 73 percent of Biden voters approve of his performance on inflation, as do 59 percent of self-described liberals and 67 percent of Democrats. Thirty percent of Biden voters in the last election “strongly approve” of his efforts on inflation, along with 28 percent of liberals and 29 percent of Democrats.

In contrast, among the general public, Biden has only a 32 percent approval rating on inflation. Self-described moderates give him a 34 percent approval rating. Just 19 percent of independents approve of his handling of inflation.

Biden’s economic mismanagement is likely tied to this gap between public opinion and the increasingly partisan and extreme views of his party’s leftwing faction. They argue that inflation isn’t really that bad, it’s already over, and Biden has managed it well anyway.

Considering this political climate, it’s no wonder Americans expect inflation to persist and have little confidence that Biden will take effective measures to control it.

John Carney
John Carney
Before I became a journalist, I practiced law at Skadden Arps and Latham & Watkins.

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