Trump's approval on the economy slides as recession fears grow

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's approval rating on the economy has started to slip as fears about a U.S. recession grow. 
  • The president has received glowing marks on the economy for most of his presidency and has pegged his 2020 election hopes in large part on American prosperity.
  • Despite the concerns about slowing growth, Trump still has a relatively high approval rating on the economy. 
President Donald Trump
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Voters may have started to sour on what they consider the best part of President Donald Trump's White House tenure.

For much of Trump's presidency, Americans have broadly held glowing views of the economy — even as a majority of them disapprove of how he has handled his job overall. The good grades for Trump started to slip in recent weeks as fears about a looming recession crept into financial markets and pockets of the general public.

  • A CNN/SSRS poll released Tuesday found 48% of registered voters approve of how the president is handling the economy — down from a peak of 56% in April.
  • In a separate Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week, 46% of adults surveyed said the same, a drop from 51% in July. In addition, 56% of respondents said the economy is either excellent or good, a decline from 65% in November 2018. A majority, or 60%, of those surveyed said they consider a recession either somewhat or very likely in the next year.
  • Trump's approval rating on the economy dropped to 46% in a Quinnipiac University survey released late last month, down 2 percentage points from May. The 61% share of voters describing the economy as excellent or good was the lowest in a Quinnipiac poll since April 2018.

Concerns about a slowing economy have clearly worried Trump as he mounts his reelection bid. The president and top campaign officials see it as one of his best ways to appeal to voters and win another term in the White House in November 2020.

As his trade war with China and its potential for economic damage widened in recent weeks, Trump repeatedly described the economy as "great." He has accused the news media of rooting for a recession to derail his election hopes. The president has also downplayed recent polls, including this week's Washington Post-ABC News survey.

In a statement, White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump's agenda has created a strong economy, pointing to better labor force participation, rising wages and high consumer confidence. He said "America is winning under this president." 

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The economy still could buoy Trump ahead of next year's election. Despite the drop in his approval rating on the issue, the president still gets relatively good marks from voters over his handling of the economy.

Although some metrics such as U.S. manufacturing have disappointed recently, jobs and GDP data show a still healthy economy. Consumer sentiment also sits at a level often associated with incumbents winning reelection.

Still, the worsening feelings about the economy may have contributed to a dip in how Americans feel about Trump overall. Widely followed election forecaster Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight noted Tuesday that the president's approval in the site's tracking model had fallen to its lowest level since the partial government shutdown in December and January.

Silver tweeted that the slide "has persisted for a few weeks, and look like it may be due more to chronic (the economy) rather than acute (some particular news story) conditions." He said it "should probably cause some consternation among any rational people in the White House."

Silver tweet: While not a huge downturn, this one has persisted for a few weeks, and look like it may be due more to chronic (the economy) rather than acute (some particular news story) conditions. It should probably cause some consternation among any rational people in the White House.

The White House and Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests to comment on the recent polls.

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