Biden polls could suffer due to inflation even as economy improves

Biden polls could suffer due to inflation even as economy improves

NJ Governor Phil Murphy on the state's new AI hub at Princeton University

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday predicted that President Joe Biden will get a much-needed boost in the polls as the economy continues to improve.

“I believe it’s only a matter of time until he does get that credit,” Murphy said of Biden on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”

But pollsters contacted by CNBC are not so sure.

They pointed to the lingering impact of inflation in particular as a key factor weighing down Americans’ views of the economy — and of Biden.

A new batch of national polls once again shows the Democratic incumbent scoring low marks on the economy as he runs for reelection.

CNBC’s latest All-America Economic Survey found that 62% of respondents disapproved of Biden’s job dealing with the economy. A plurality of respondents identified the cost of living as the top issue facing the U.S. right now.

The survey of 1,002 U.S. adults, released Tuesday, was conducted Dec. 8 through 12. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

A New York Times/Siena College poll released on Tuesday also ranked the economy and inflation as the two most important problems facing the country.

Biden’s job approval among registered voters slid to 37% in that survey, which took place from Dec. 10 to 14 and has a 3.5-percentage point margin of error.

Murphy, a Democrat, told CNBC on Tuesday afternoon that those dismal results have yet to factor in a spate of good macroeconomic news.

“I really believe there’s a lead lag here, where the macro data is clearly getting better, inflation is coming down, it’s come down without having blown up unemployment,” Murphy said.

“I believe it’s only a matter of time until he does get that credit when that reduction in interest rates and inflation hits the so-called man on the street,” the governor said.

“You’re seeing it, early signs of that, for instance, at the gas pump, where gas prices have come down meaningfully. You’ve got markets that are strong, and they usually are a precursor to the underlying realities.”

Murphy noted that the Times’ latest survey showed Biden beating former President Donald Trump by two percentage points among likely voters.

“I believe the president’s support will solidify, and this poll I think is maybe an early sign of that,” he said.

Jay Campbell, a partner of Hart Research, the firm that conducted CNBC’s survey, said the governor’s prediction has little to do with the latest polling results.

The polls consistently show that despite the improving macroeconomic situation, “people have this continued malaise about them” that can be traced to inflation, Campbell said in a phone interview.

While the inflation rate is declining, it remains a “dark cloud over everything else,” he said.

“The fact is, bad news and difficult times stick with people much longer than good news and happy times.”

Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University’s Polling Institute, said there was no basis to grant Murphy’s assumptions.

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“Nobody has any clue what the economy’s going to be in the future,” Murray said in a phone interview.

Inflation hasn’t been a major political factor for decades, Murray said, which is why the current economic pessimism in the polls doesn’t make sense to some people.

Murray also argued that Democrats’ messaging about the economy isn’t working.

“Democrats have really been hammering away at all these other positive economic reports, basically saying, ‘Pay attention to this, the economy’s doing very well, you shouldn’t feel the way you do,’” he said.

“Guess what? People don’t like being told that they’re idiots about the economy.”

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