Biden’s economic ratings are worse than Carter’s
Biden now sports the lowest net economic rating of any president at this point through their first term since at least Jimmy Carter in 1977.
To put that in perspective, the average president at this point in the last 44 years (since we have been polling on the topic) had a net economic approval rating of +5 points. That means Biden’s is 18 points worse than the average.
The best rating, perhaps unsurprisingly, belonged to George W. Bush following the September 11 attacks. He was at +37 points at a time when his approval ratings on all issues were high thanks to the “rally around the flag” effect.
Notably, Biden’s net rating is worse than his two immediate predecessors, Barack Obama in December 2009 and Donald Trump in December 2017. Both Obama and Trump had net approval ratings on the economy of -4 points.
Indeed, the issue of inflation hurting a president helps to put Biden’s bad position in perspective. The public reaction now looks at least somewhat similar to how the public was reacting to another president under whom inflation was an issue: Carter.
Carter’s economic net approval rating of -8 points in an early January 1978 CBS News/New York Times poll was the lowest around this point in a presidency before Biden’s -13 points. The economy, and particularly inflation, was listed as the nation’s top problem in a late October 1977 Gallup poll.
Importantly, far more Americans (52%) in a November 1977 Time Magazine poll thought that Carter was not making a good start to fighting inflation than thought he was (21%). In other words, Americans felt his efforts were not enough to control inflation.
The good news for Biden is that it’s far from clear what the economy and inflation will look like in the future. Carter ended up losing in 1980, in part, because voters felt he didn’t solve the economic crisis. Biden, on the other hand, still has nearly three years until the 2024 election, although his party may still suffer in the midterms because of fears voters have about the economy.