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Joe Biden’s flagship economic message is failing to win over American swing voters ahead of next year’s election, a poll for the Telegraph has revealed.
Despite the US economy’s consistent growth and falling inflation, the president’s “Bidenomics” package has not won broad support in battleground states, leaving him trailing Donald Trump on the economy in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
A majority of voters in all six of those states say the cost of living will be “extremely important” in determining their vote in November 2024, while more than 40 per cent of the 6,184 people polled said the economy was the most important issue of the election campaign.
The poll is the second instalment of the Telegraph’s 2024 swing state tracker project, conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies.
The poll presents a major challenge to Mr Biden and his campaign, who have sought to present the incumbent as being more responsible on the economy compared to his rival. But it also suggests the Democrats could win back wavering voters by instead focusing on abortion, where Republican candidates are out of step with the American electorate.
Mr Biden has focused heavily on economic issues in the first months of his presidential campaign, and Democrats have hailed his series of investment schemes in green energy, electronics manufacturing and infrastructure as evidence of a strong track record on the economy.
The US economy has grown in each of the last five quarters, reaching 5.2 per cent in the year to the end of September, while inflation has fallen every month but two since June 2022 to the second-lowest rate in the G7. Unemployment has fallen to pre-pandemic levels after reaching its peak in April 2020.
But despite the strong performance, voters remain unconvinced by Mr Biden’s economic credentials.
The administration has negative net approval ratings for its handling of the economy in all six states, with net disapproval ranging from minus 10 per cent in Georgia and Michigan to minus 15 per cent in Arizona and North Carolina. A majority of voters in each of the states say their financial position has worsened in the last year.
The president also trails his main Republican rival on the economy in all six states by at least fifteen points. His closest margin was in Florida, where 33 per cent backed him on the economy, compared with 48 per cent who preferred Mr Trump.
In North Carolina, 55 per cent of voters say they think Mr Trump could “get the economy going”, while only 32 per cent said the same of Mr Biden.
The largest group of voters in all states said they were “pessimistic” or “strongly pessimistic” about the trajectory of America, while at least 44 per cent voiced disapproval of Mr Biden’s administration overall.
The figures present a challenge for the president in key states his campaign hopes to cling onto next year, including Georgia – the closest swing state in the 2020 election.
In all six states, Mr Trump is now ahead of Mr Biden in a head-to-head race. In the Sunday Telegraph’s last poll on Oct 9, Mr Trump was ahead in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, but tied in Michigan and behind in Pennsylvania.
In head-to-heads with Ron DeSantis, Mr Biden leads in the four states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, while against Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and Republican candidate, he would win in all but North Carolina.
Mr Biden has publicly acknowledged the divide between the US’s economic performance and the opinions of voters about his administration.
He told the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in California on Nov 16: “I acknowledge there’s a disconnect between the numbers and how people feel about their place in the world right now.
“We can deal with the second part as well. We still have work to do, but our model for growing is delivering real results for all Americans.”
Voters ‘broadly blame Biden’ for inflation
Philip van Scheltinga, Redfield & Wilton’s director of research, said: “Voters broadly blame Biden for the high level of inflation that happened in 2021 and 2022, and that experience cannot be easily overcome.
“Inflation is intensely stressful. Even if your income keeps pace with it or your bank account moves to a higher interest rate, such that your savings are keeping up, the realisation that the money you earn or the money that you’ve saved can quickly have less value is disorienting.”
He added: “If economic figures do not reflect what voters are feeling about the economy, are voters going to question what they feel—based on their own experience—or the economic figures?”
In recent weeks, the president’s speeches focused more on direct attacks on Mr Trump, describing what he called “extreme MAGA ideology” – a reference to the former president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
Campaign aides say Mr Biden believes tying his likely opponent to the Capitol riots of Jan 6, 2021 and the election interference cases against him may be a more effective strategy in next year’s race.
Abortion stance a valuable asset for Democrats
But other Democrats have suggested the Biden campaign should talk more about the issue of abortion, which propelled the party’s success in state elections last month.
Voters’ disillusionment with Republican abortion bans prevented Glen Youngkin, the Virginia governor, from taking control of the state legislature and secured the re-election of Democrat governor Andy Beshear in Kentucky.
The Telegraph’s poll shows that the largest group of voters in each of the swing states is opposed to tight abortion controls, reporting that they thought terminations could be morally acceptable, depending on the circumstances.
In all states, the largest group said they leaned towards the Democratic Party’s position on abortion, ranging between 47 per cent in North Carolina and 52 per cent in Pennsylvania, while no more than 40 per cent in any state said they supported the Republican position.
Voters in all six states said they strongly supported exceptions to abortion bans, including on rape and incest, danger to a mother or baby’s life and in cases of non-viable pregnancies.
Some Republicans, including Ron DeSantis, the second-placed GOP primary candidate, have been outspoken about abortion and proposed bans on the procedure after just six weeks of pregnancy.
Speaking at the Iowa Thanksgiving Family Forum on Nov 17, all of the leading Republican primary candidates (apart from Mr Trump, who did not attend) said they were instinctively opposed to abortion, although differed on whether they would impose national bans.
Mr Trump has a moderate position on the issue, describing Mr DeSantis’s six-week ban in Florida as a “terrible thing” and speculating that a hard-line stance on terminations could damage the GOP next year.