Biden’s poll numbers still closely tied to inflation despite recent wins

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President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have ticked up amid arguably his most successful stretch as president but are unlikely to rebound fully until the current inflationary run reverses.

As of Monday, Biden registered a 40.3% approval rating in the RealClearPolitics polling average, a 3.5-point increase from his term-low, registered back on July 21. Since that time, the president has secured a series of major legislative victories, ordered the killing of a top terrorist leader, personally kicked coronavirus, and seen gas prices decrease for more than two consecutive months.

INFLATION MAY HAVE PEAKED, BUT HIGH PRICES LIKELY TO STICK

The administration has taken a significant victory lap on gas prices in particular, claiming that decreases at the pump powered the economy to “zero” inflation in July.

“Today, we received news that our economy had 0% inflation in the month of July. Zero percent,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “Here’s what that means: While the price of some things go up, went up last month, the price of other things went down by the same amount. The result: zero inflation last month.”

On a month-to-month basis, the president was correct; prices did not increase compared to June 2022, but the consumer price index still saw prices increase 8.5% compared to July 2021, with the majority of the increases attributed to food and shelter costs. Food prices alone jumped 1.2% compared to June and 14.4% compared to the year prior.

Furthermore, unlike gas prices, food costs might continue to rise for the public for the foreseeable future. The cost of finished food products jumped 16% in July compared to the year prior, the highest recorded jump since 1974, and economists expect the elevated prices paid by retailers to trickle down to customers in the coming weeks.

Similarly, increased shelter costs could continue to increase even after the current inflationary run has peaked, Campbell Harvey, a finance professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, explained. Harvey notes that increased rents would only be reflected when renters sign new leases, resulting in staggered increases in the data.

“So effectively, the rental and housing inflation — we’ve already realized it, but it’s not reflected in the data yet,” Harvey told the Washington Examiner. “This is a key reason that inflation will likely remain elevated.”

The public voiced negative sentiment about Biden’s economic policy for months. That trend continued into August, even with the president preparing to sign the Inflation Reduction Act into law. His handling of inflation registered just 29% support from 665 respondents in the latest poll from Ipsos and ABC, and 69% said they thought the economy was headed in the wrong direction under the current administration.

The Biden administration, however, is planning to send the president and certain top officials on a victory tour this fall ahead of the midterm elections.

“Our goal for the next few weeks is simple: Take our message — one that we know resonates with key groups — and reach the American people where they are,” senior Biden adviser Anita Dunn and White House communications director Kate Bedingfield wrote in a memo to White House chief of staff Ron Klain on Monday. “Other upcoming events will illustrate how President Biden worked to get things done, including passing a historic gun safety law and making smart investments to keep our competitive edge and rebuild American manufacturing through the CHIPS and Science Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

Biden and allies have looked to the reconciliation bill as a key piece of evidence toward Biden’s stewardship of the economy, yet debates remain about just how much the bill will decrease prices for the public, and when. While the healthcare pricing aspects of the bill will kick in upon Biden’s signature, the bulk of the clean energy tax credits won’t go into effect until 2023 or 2024.

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Meanwhile, Republicans plan to escalate attacks against the 15% corporate minimum tax and an essential doubling in funding for the Internal Revenue Services as violations of Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on households earning less than $400,000 per year.

“Biden and Democrats are out-of-touch and do not care about the pain and suffering they are causing Americans,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “Democrats celebrate raising taxes on families during a recession they created and weaponizing the IRS to target small businesses and hardworking Americans.”