By AAMER MADHANI and EMILY SWANSON
WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Joe Biden embarks on his reelection campaign, just 33% of American adults say they approve of his handling of the economy and only 24% say national economic conditions are in good shape, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Public approval of Biden’s handling of the economy remains low in a time of high inflation, a difficult housing market and concerns about a potential U.S. government debt default. American opinion is also gloomy about Biden’s efforts on gun policy and immigration, with only 31% saying they approve of the president’s performance on those hot button issues. Overall, 40% say they approve of the way Biden is doing his job, similar to where his approval rating has stood for much of the past year and a half.
Zoie Mosqueda, 24, who does not identify with any political party, said her family is ready to buy their first home but with the average mortgage interest rate hovering around 6.9%, that goal, at least for now, is out of reach.
The woman from West Texas said she also has been frustrated with Biden’s handling of gun policy and said he’s fallen short on his campaign promise to implement a fairer immigration policy.
A recent spate of mass shootings around the country, including this month’s shooting at an Allen, Texas mall that left eight victims dead and seven others wounded, has left her wishing that Biden and lawmakers in Washington would do more to address the scourge of gun violence.
Even among Democrats, the poll finds only about half approve of his handling of immigration and gun policy.
“Everything feels a bit crazy right now in this economy,” Mosqueda, a mother of two who works at a boutique and is looking to open her own business, said in explaining her disapproval of Biden’s performance. “My older daughter is in school now, and I just worry that this lack of gun policy stuff could affect her.”
Biden was set to return early Monday from a visit to Hiroshima, Japan, for the annual G7 summit where the global economic impact of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine was front-and-center.
The summit was shadowed by the Biden administration’s negotiations with Republican lawmakers to raise the U.S. borrowing authority to prevent a default in early June that could have severe impact on the global economy. Before departing for Japan, Biden canceled scheduled stops in Papua New Guinea and Australia so he could return to the U.S. to focus on the debt limit talks.
“It would be a total catastrophe for the country if they don’t agree to do something,” said Bob Vought, a retired auto parts warehouse manager in St. Petersburg, Florida. He said he strongly disapproves of Biden’s handling of the economy.
Vought, who lives on his Social Security benefit, said inflation is taking a toll on his personal finances.
The Biden administration oversaw two of the bigger Social Security cost-of-living adjustment in recent decades, with a 5.9% increase that took effect in 2022 and 8.7% in 2023. But Vought said that’s not enough to keep up with a rental increase at the trailer park where he lives with his father and the rising costs of food and other basic necessities.
Vought, an independent who typically votes Republican but voted for Biden in 2020, said he’s also been frustrated by the “out of control” rise in illegal crossings by migrants at the U.S. southern border.
In the 2022 budget year, which ended in September, agents apprehended immigrants a record 2.38 million times at the southern border.
Coronavirus restrictions implemented under President Donald Trump, which were known as Title 42, allowed border officials to turn away migrants to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions recently ended.
While Title 42 was used to deny asylum more than 2.8 million times, it carried no legal consequences, which encouraged repeat attempts by migrants to enter the United States. Border Patrol agents returned to pre-pandemic immigration laws on May 11 that impose stiffer penalties on migrants who enter the U.S. without permission than the emergency health order did.
Despite his frustrations with Biden, Vought said he’d probably vote for the Democrat again if Trump wins the Republican nomination.
“I agree with about half of Trump’s policies but I think the guy is a liar and is so arrogant,” Vought said. “If those were the only two candidates … I’d have to still vote Biden.”
John Billman, 79, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, said Biden doesn’t get enough credit for passage of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and $280 billion CHIPS Act aimed at boosting the U.S. semiconductor history, or the historically low unemployment rate. The unemployment rate stands at 3.4%,
Billman, who approves of Biden’s performance, said he feels the political conversation has become even more toxic since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“Since January 6, there are so many that seem incredibly angry at the government, that think the government and Biden are only doing bad things,” Billman said. “I mean an infrastructure bill? It’s a bad thing? I have relatives who I respect and love and are intelligent people who say, ‘I hate Biden.’ I can understand disagreeing with him but how can you hate Biden? It’s scary.”
Biden underperforms on the economy even among Democrats: 61% approve of him on the issue, compared with 75% for his job overall. Democrats feel even more dour about the current condition of the nation’s economy, though they continue to be more likely than Republicans to say the country is headed in the right direction (36% vs. 7%) or to rate the economy as good (41% vs. 7%).
Some Democratic respondents who approve of the president’s performance said they felt flummoxed by life in post-pandemic America and what often seems like a total abandonment of bipartisanship in Washington.
Karen D’Andrea, 64, a Democrat from Port Lucie, Florida, was among the millions of Americans who lost their jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. She was able to land a new job at a tech startup, but was recently laid off as that sector is going through some of the most significant cost cutting since the Great Recession.
“I think people with the same mindset as me feel our best days are behind us,” said D’Andrea, who approves of Biden’s performance but believes the country is moving in the wrong direction. “Republicans like to say they want to make America great again. I think things can be wonderful now, but we got to work together.”
The poll of 1,680 adults was conducted May 11-15 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
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