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How Biden's Economic Policies Outperform "Bidenomics"
The trees are better than the forest in the eyes of many voters.
The second wave of The Liberal Patriot/YouGov 2024 presidential election project, conducted in early September, focused specifically on the domestic economy. As an earlier post highlighted, ongoing voter concerns about persistent inflation and the larger economy drag down President Biden’s standing with many voters despite Biden holding a slight lead over Trump in the national horse race.
The survey also explored public perceptions of Biden’s signature legislative accomplishments and “Bidenomics” as an overall framing. Across multiple indicators, these data show that the specifics of the Biden agenda perform better with voters than the whole.
(1) Voters like the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act more than they like “Bidenomics”. As seen below, two-thirds of voters are at least somewhat familiar with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and about six in ten are familiar with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act (formally called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act); less than four in ten, however, are familiar with the CHIPS and Science Act. Around six in ten voters also say they are familiar with the phrase “Bidenomics.”
In terms of support for these pieces of legislation, all three of the specific bills score higher with voters than “Bidenomics” does as a framing of his agenda. For example, around 45 percent of voters overall support both the IRA and bipartisan infrastructure bills with around one quarter to one third opposing them and up to three in ten not having an opinion. In contrast, only 32 percent of voters say they support “Bidenomics” while 39 percent oppose it and three in ten have no opinion.
Notably, the three specific bills also score better with voters than Bidenomics does in terms of the perceived impact on both personal finances and the overall health of the economy. As seen below, voters by a 43 percent to 30 percent margin say that the IRA will help their family financially. Conversely, by a 33 percent to 36 percent margin, voters say that Bidenomics will hurt their family financially. Roughly half of all voters say that both the CHIPS and infrastructure bills make no difference to their family finances.
Interestingly, the Biden agenda performs better in terms of its perceived impact on the overall economy than it does on family finances—as seen above, the three specific bills (and Bidenomics to a lesser extent) all score higher on being good for the overall economy than they do on helping people’s family finances.
(2) Many of Biden’s specific legislative and executive proposals enjoy broad support from voters—and perform better than ideas from House Republicans and Trump. The wave 2 survey also presented voters with a long list of specific legislative proposals from Biden, House Republicans, and Donald Trump to measure basic support and opposition for the ideas themselves without any partisan labels (some have been enacted, others have been proposed).
As the table below summarizes, much of the specific legislative agenda of President Biden and Democrats performs quite well with voters.
At the top of the list, with 86 percent total support, is Biden’s proposal to reduce prescription drug prices and cut the cost of insulin for the elderly (as provided for in the Inflation Reduction Act). The second highest rated proposal is stopping the export of advanced microchips and other sensitive technology to China—a Biden executive order supported by 72 percent of voters overall. The third highest rated policy proposal overall, backed by two-thirds of voters, is investing billions of dollars in new research and development for advanced technology and domestic manufacturing (as laid out in the CHIPS and Science Act).
Other Biden and Democratic ideas with strong majority support from voters include the creation of a 15 percent corporate minimum tax on all companies worth at least $1 billion, higher taxes on the wealthy to help reduce budget deficits, and increased access to Medicaid. The worst performing Democratic idea is increasing funding for IRS enforcement on tax cheats.
The two Republican ideas with the strongest public support include imposing new work requirements on recipients of food stamps and other federal anti-poverty programs, at 58 percent, and increasing domestic fossil fuel production and development, at 53 percent. (A split sample test on energy finds 68 percent total support for increasing the domestic energy supply from all sources including nuclear, fossil fuels, and renewables—a position not fully embraced by either party but a clear policy winner.)
In contrast, much of the House Republican agenda receives lower levels of support from voters including their ideas to cap all increases in non-military spending at 1 percent for next two years, removing environmental and labor regulations on new energy projects, and ending birthright citizenship for children of immigrants.
Likewise, former president Trump’s new campaign proposal to levy a 10 percent tax on all foreign imports receives lukewarm support with only 49 percent supporting the idea overall.
The single worst performing proposal tested in the survey is raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare to help with funding challenges—only 26 percent of all voters support this idea.
Looking at all of these findings, it’s clear that voters are both open to and supportive of many aspects of Biden’s agenda at a more granular level—particularly on the populist/nationalist fronts of reducing prescription drug costs, standing up to China, imposing a corporate minimum tax, and investing in domestic manufacturing.
It’s baffling then from a political perspective why the White House is wrapping its agenda in the seriously underwhelming “Bidenomics” framework that voters mostly associate with bad vibes and high inflation. Since much of the specific Republican agenda is lackluster in terms of public support, you can see why Donald Trump and the GOP are sticking to high-level criticisms of the current president’s handling of the economy. Ongoing chatter from the president and his administration about “Bidenomics” plays right into their hands.
Many voters—particularly working-class and lower-income ones—remain anxious about inflation and their own personal financial standing, despite some overall positive trends in the economy. The White House needs to acknowledge these concerns more forthrightly before turning to some specific populist/nationalist ideas that will likely get a warmer welcome from voters.
On the economy, the trees are sometimes better than the forest.