The shift is the steepest worsening of public perceptions of the economy in polling dating back to 1997.
The findings follow a near-total shutdown of the American economy in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, a worse-than-expected unemployment report and two weeks of astronomically high counts of people filing for unemployment benefits highlighted the speed with which the impact of that shutdown has spread. The poll finds about half of Americans report financial hardship due to the outbreak.
Despite all of that, the changed view of the current economic picture has not dampened the public’s optimism about where the economy will be a year from now. About two-thirds, 67%, say they expect it to be in good shape in one year, about the same as felt that way in December.
As views on the economy have slid, President Donald Trump’s approval rating for handling the economy has also ticked down. In March, 54% said they approved of Trump’s handling of the economy; that slips to 48% in the new poll. It’s the first time that figure has fallen below 50% since September.
The 60% overall who say the economy is in poor shape is the worst since 2014, and the size of the change in the last month nearly doubles the previous largest change between CNN polls regardless of the length of time between when they were conducted — a 16-point increase in the share calling the economy “poor” between January and March of 2008.
The worsening views of the economy come across party lines — the percentage describing the economy as “good” is down 33 points among Republicans, 28 points among independents and 27 points among Democrats — and most demographic divides. It is sharper among those with college degrees (down 44 points among college grads vs. a 23-point drop among those without degrees) and higher incomes (down 40 points among those with incomes of $50,000 or more annually vs. 18 points among those with lower incomes).
Overall, 67% say they see the economic problems caused by the virus as a temporary obstacle to economic growth rather than a permanent change in the American economy. That sentiment is much stronger among Republicans, 91% of whom say it is a temporary change. Among Democrats, 52% feel that way while 46% say it is a permanent change to the economy.
About half say that the outbreak has caused their household financial hardship, with one in six saying that hardship has been severe. Nearly 3 in 10 who have incomes under $50,000 per year and roughly a quarter of younger Americans and people of color say they are facing severe financial hardship due to the outbreak.
Overall, most feel that the action taken by the government thus far has not done enough to help those who have lost jobs or wages during the outbreak (55%) or to help small businesses (53%). And 44% say it hasn’t gone far enough to help people like them.
There is a wide partisan divide on whether the bills passed by Congress in response to the virus have done enough to help small businesses or those who have lost jobs or wages. About three-quarters of Democrats say the bills have done too little for each of those groups, while only about a quarter of Republicans feel the same way. Most independents say they have not gone far enough.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS April 3 through 6 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
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