It’s Not Just the Vibes – How the Economic Recovery Is And Is Not Translating to Working-Class Voters

Matt Morrison


Over the last several months, macroeconomic news under the Biden Administration has been remarkably positive. GDP growth has risen faster than expected while inflation has fallen. The predicted recession has been avoided and the Dow Jones is up 13 percent over the last year. With the overall numbers of jobs growing and total wages rising, headline writers last week described the US labor market as “hot”, “sizzling” and “shockingly good.”

But while it has increased slightly since the depths of the fall, the Fed-tracked consumer sentiment index—one of the most widely used measures of Americans’ confidence in the economy—is still stuck below 70. Those are levels not seen since 2008’s Great Recession and its aftermath. Gallup’s economic confidence tracker shows Americans more pessimistic than they were in July 2020, when the pandemic still raged uncontrolled. Politically, this economic melancholy has translated into historically low approval for President Biden. Almost 60 percent of voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy, according to polling averages.

What’s driving this nearly unprecedented disconnect? And how can Biden reverse Americans’ perceptions of his performance? As always when trying to understand presidential politics, the headlines written in DC and New York will ultimately be less impactful than the perspective of working-class voters in swing states. It’s the vibes of these voters that will decide the election.

Working America has unique insight into these questions because of the deep and durable connections we’ve built with working-class voters through our years of canvassing. In this case, we spoke to 11,000 voters at their front doors last week across Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin, and got thousands of them to talk to us about their feelings and personal experiences with the economy to produce this: the latest of our Front Porch Focus Group reports. We asked these voters two questions: Do you think the economy is doing better or worse, and have you or haven’t you recently received an increase in pay?


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