If we’ve learned anything from Trump-era post-fact politics, it’s that old polling metrics don’t exactly translate at the ballot box the way they used to.
A major part of the 2022 “red wave” narrative was informed by the fact that President Joe Biden’s approval rating was hovering around a dismal 40% and the right track/wrong track numbers were abysmal—net -40s for the final few months of the midterm campaign. In days of old, Democrats, who controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress, would have been toast. Instead, they barely lost the House and miraculously managed to pick up one Senate seat.
The point isn’t that old metrics aren’t meaningful: It’s that we have to view them through a new-era lens. At the same time, pollsters need to find new ways to measure the views of the electorate—particularly ones in which responses aren’t as driven by partisan bias.
The Axios Vibes surveys seem to be an attempt at that. Yes, the name and concept seem almost laughable—except that, well, maybe they’re onto something here.
One of their latest Vibes surveys conducted by Harris Polls finds that, contrary to popular belief, Americans are feeling pretty bullish about their personal finances. Indeed, 63% rated their current financial outlook as good, with 19% calling it “very good.”
Additionally, they feel optimistic about their future finances, with 66% saying 2024 will be better than 2023 and 85% betting they can improve their personal financial situation this year.
These results may seem impossibly rosy to anyone who has been following voters’ views of the economy over the past couple of years. But for one thing, consumer sentiment is actually a lagging indicator as an economy starts to hum again.
As veteran Democratic campaign strategist Joe Trippi tweeted out regarding the poll, “The Lag means this will start to show up in polling long before November….Americans are actually pretty happy with their finances.”
That would be most welcome from a Democratic perspective.
Axios also notes that “political affiliation influences the responses that Republicans, in particular, give when they’re asked about the economy.” So asking instead about personal finances can elicit different and, in this case, more positive responses.
Views on the economy more broadly have been improving, but they’re not exactly the stuff of legend.
In Civiqs tracking on the “current condition” of the economy, for example, voters currently say the economy is 29 points underwater, with 34% calling it good and 62% calling it bad.
But for perspective, the economy’s current condition hasn’t been in positive territory since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. And net -29 on the question is voters’ best measure of the economy since October 2021. So overall sentiment is not great, but also consistently moving in a positive direction.
Consumer views about the economy will be taking shape over the next handful of months and helping to inform the overall mood of voters as they begin to size up a likely Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump rematch.
And while those views may not be quite as predictive about 2024 outcomes as they have proven to be in the past, it’s possible that consumer sentiment will start to undercut the economic doomsday message that Republicans will be trying to sell the American people on.
That’s exactly why Trump is predicting an economic “crash” is on the horizon while rooting for it to happen sooner rather than later.
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