Amid worsening economic numbers — and President Biden’s lowest approval rating to date — a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll suggests that Democrats’ best chance for a boost before November’s pivotal midterm elections would be to pass the climate change, tax and prescription drug bill that Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a key Democratic centrist, finally agreed to support last week.
The survey of 1,557 U.S. adults, which was conducted from July 28 to Aug. 1, found that Americans favor — by wide margins — each major component of the sweeping “reconciliation” deal that Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer negotiated with Manchin.
When told, for instance, that “Democrats in the U.S. Senate just put forward a surprise $369 billion climate and energy package that promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030,” nearly half of Americans (47%) say they favor it, while less than a third say they’re opposed (30%).
That gap then widens even further — to 61% favor and 14% oppose — when respondents are told “the Democrats’ new Senate package would also lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time while capping out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 a year.”
And when the deal’s funding mechanism is described — “the Democrats’ new Senate package would also raise an estimated $451 billion in new revenue over the next decade primarily by requiring large corporations pay the taxes they owe, while setting aside $300 billion for deficit reduction” — a majority of Americans (53%) still say they favor it. Just 19% are opposed.
At a time of bitter polarization, these are strikingly positive results for any bill explicitly associated with one party and not the other. Independents support each element of the Manchin-Schumer deal by the same wide margins as Americans overall — and even a plurality of Republicans favor (47%) rather than oppose (27%) its prescription-drug reforms.
Right now, no one knows for sure whether the Manchin-Schumer deal will survive a 50-50 Senate, where Republican opposition is unanimous and Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote. The party is currently trying to persuade its other mercurial centrist, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, to sign off on tax changes she previously resisted.
But what the Yahoo News/YouGov poll makes clear is that Democrats would almost certainly be better off politically if they manage to pass the bill than if they let it die on the Senate floor.
Otherwise, the president’s party faces considerable headwinds as the midterms approach. For one thing, perceptions of the economy — which have been dismal since inflation started to spike last year — are only getting worse.
While economists and columnists debate whether two quarters of declining GDP growth mean the U.S. has technically entered a recession, Americans seem to have largely made up their minds: A majority (53%) say we're already in one, with an additional 16% saying that we're "heading" that way. Even most Democrats (a combined 55%) believe the U.S. is either in a recession now (36%) or will be soon (19%).
As a result, a full 81% of Americans now describe the U.S. economy as either “fair” or “poor,” up from 70% in mid-April. In fact, a majority of Americans (55%) say the economy is poor, up 13 points over the same period. More than 6 in 10 (63%) say the economy is getting worse (up from 54% in April), and nearly half (47%) say their “own economic situation” is getting worse (up from 36% in April).
Predictably, Republicans are more negative about the economy than Democrats, with the share who describe it as “poor” (76%) having grown 17 points since April. Among independents, that number increased 18 points (to 66%) over the same period; among Democrats, it’s up just 6 points (to 28%).
Nevertheless, a full 70% of Democrats now say the economy is either fair or poor, up 14 points since April.
Inflation continues to dominate the conversation: 63% of Americans say it’s the economic issue they’ve heard about “most in the media,” compared with just 13% for recession and 8% for the low unemployment rate. And 32% select inflation as the issue that’s most important to them “when thinking about this year’s election.” Only one other option from a list of 10 — “democracy,” at 15% — cracks double digits.
This is a problem for Democrats. Why? Because a full 40% of Americans say Republicans would do “a better job handling” inflation; just 28% say Democrats would. When asked which party can “better fix” inflation, Americans also favor Republicans (36%) over Democrats (25%) — an 11-point gap that has doubled since April.
Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of Americans (63%) say Biden deserves at least some blame for rising prices, and a greater share (35%) say he deserves the “most blame” than say the same about anyone or anything else — including “disruptions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic” (29%). A clear majority of Americans (59%) — including a full third (32%) of Democrats — also say Biden is “not doing enough to address inflation,” up 5 points since April.
Overall, only 26% of Americans think Biden is “up to the challenges facing the U.S.,” including just 17% of independents and (considering partisan loyalties) a rather anemic 54% of Democrats. Over the last three weeks, Biden’s job approval rating has declined 3 points, from 38% to 35% — a new low. Even fewer Americans approve of the job he is doing on the economy (30%) and inflation (26%).
The Yahoo News/YouGov poll was conducted immediately after Schumer and Manchin announced their deal, amid declining gas prices and the passage of bipartisan legislation meant to make America more competitive with China. It concluded before the White House announced earlier this week that a U.S. drone strike had killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri. It's impossible to say how much of this positive news for the president's party — if any — is reflected in the latest survey results, or whether it will sway future responses.
There were, however, two minor bright spots for Democrats in the wake of the Manchin-Schumer announcement. First, the share of Americans who say the country is headed in the right direction has ticked up 3 points since early July (to a still-paltry 18%). And when asked who they would vote for in their home district if the “election for U.S. Congress were being held today,” 45% of Americans now say the Democratic candidate versus just 39% for the Republican candidate — a 6-point advantage. In early July, Democrats led by 4 points — 43% to 39% — on the same question.
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,557 U.S. adults interviewed online from July 28 to Aug. 1, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or nonvote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.