NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll: the Economy, July 2021

Americans Split on Biden’s Impact on the Economy… Are Ready to Go Back to Work in Person

Americans divide about whether President Joe Biden’s decisions have strengthened (44%) or weakened (45%) the U.S. economy. Americans’ impressions of Biden’s impact on the economy have tarnished since April when 49% said Biden strengthened the economy, and 44% thought he weakened it. Closer to home, 24% of Americans believe their personal finances will get worse in the coming year, a nearly two- fold increase since 2018. Inflation tops the list of Americans’ concerns about the economy, although there is a wide partisan divide over how the economy is likely to struggle. Half of Americans also express concern about the possibility of a new wave of the coronavirus. Most employed Americans (86%), though, report they are, at least, somewhat comfortable heading back to in-person workplaces post- COVID.

Biden Impact on Economy
Do you think the United States' economy has been strengthened or weakened by Joe Biden's decisions as president?
Source: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll National Adults. Interviews conducted June 22- June 29, 2021, n=1115 MOE +/- 3.7 percentage points.
  • There’s a large partisan divide regarding Biden’s impact on the economy with 81% of Democrats saying it’s been strengthened and just 9% of Republicans saying the same. Independents split (43% strengthened to 46% weakened).

  • Americans’ top economic concern is inflation (26%) followed by wages (18%), unemployment (16%), housing costs (14%), and labor shortages (10%). Gas prices (9%) and interest rates (3%) each receive single digits. There’s a significant partisan divide on this question (see details in the next section).

  • 46% of residents believe their personal family finances in the year ahead will stay about the same while 30% expect them to get better, and 24% expect them to get worse. The proportion of Americans who think their finances will deteriorate has nearly doubled since 2018 (13%) and is the highest proportion with this view since March 2013.

  • 50% of Americans, including 57% of those employed, do not believe employers should require COVID vaccines as a condition to return to in-person work.

  • Democrats (74%) are more concerned than Republicans (28%) and independents (46%) about the threat of another coronavirus wave.

The proportion of Americans who have already received a COVID-19 vaccine (63%) has inched up from May (59%), and an additional 8% say they plan to be vaccinated. Yet, resistance to getting a COVID vaccine continues (28% of all Americans), most strongly among Republicans (44%), rural residents (45%), and those who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 (49%).

“Barring another wave of COVID-19, Americans are focused on the economic recovery, getting back to work, and having their lives return to normal,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist Poll. “The test for the Biden Administration is to shift from shots in the arm to creating economic security.”

Detailed Findings

Economic Concerns

Overall, Americans’ leading economic concern is inflation, (26%) but there are broad partisan differences on this question. For instance, inflation is the top concern among Republicans (36%) and independents (31%) but receives only 13% among Democrats.

Wages is the top concern among Democrats (38%) but ranked low with Republicans (4%). Housing costs is in a three-way tie for second among Democrats (13%) and places third among independents (15%) but is well down the list for Republicans (6%).

Unemployment and labor shortages both rank in the top 5 for Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

Most Important Concern by Party Identification

What do you consider to be the MOST important concern for the United States economy:

Source: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll Registered Voters. Interviews conducted June 22- June 29, 2021, n=905 MOE +/- 4.2 percentage points.

Personal Family Finances

While 59% of Americans say their personal family finances have stayed about the same since the start of the pandemic, 27% say they have gotten worse, and 14% report they have gotten better. Republicans (31%) are more likely than Democrats (22%) and independents (27%) to say their financial picture is worse. Those earning less than $50,000 annually (35%) are more likely than those who make more (22%) to have this view.

However, 23% of Americans say they plan to increase their spending and investments in the next year, with Democrats (27%) and independents (25%) leading the charge. 14% of Republicans say the same. 19% of Americans say they will decrease their spending and investments. 57% report they do not plan to make any financial adjustments.

COVID

Most U.S. residents (80%) either report wearing face masks in most public places, regardless of mask- wearing requirements (36%) or “when it’s required” (44%). Of note, the proportion of Americans who say they wear a mask even when it’s not required is down 13 points from 49% in May. One in five (20%) say they “generally do not wear a mask,” up from 9% previously. The partisan differences are notable among the latter: Republicans (36%), independents (22%), and Democrats (5%).

Nearly half of Americans (48%) believe it will take six months or more to return to normal from the pandemic. This is down from 74% who had this view in April. 27% of residents currently believe it will take less than six months, up from 15%. 12% say life has already returned to normal.

There are specific signs that life is returning to normal. More than three in four (78%) report dining out at restaurants and visiting friends and family who are not vaccinated (75%).

However, Americans are not as willing to participate in larger gatherings. A majority are not going to bars (69%), attending live concerts or sporting events (65%), or going to in-person religious services (54%).

Americans are split on traveling on planes, trains, or shared transportation (50% yes, 50% no) And, while 70% of Americans report they do not have children under the age of 18, 80% of parents say they are sending or are ready to send their children to in-person school or daycare.

Jobs

As Americans head back to work, a plurality of Americans (44%) say they expect to be working in the same job that they currently have. 14% expect to be working somewhere else, and 40% are currently not working, disabled, or are retired.

Looking at those who are not currently working, 28% did have a job prior to the onset of the pandemic. When asked about enhanced unemployment benefits, a majority of Americans (57%) say those benefits should end, although there are notable partisan differences. Majorities of Republicans (81%) and independents (64%) have this opinion, but only 29% of Democrats agree.

And, when it comes to childcare responsibilities, 10% of Americans who are currently working say those responsibilities have impacted their ability to work in person, and 26% report they have not. 63% of workers do not have childcare responsibilities.

Summer Plans

With summer at hand and pandemic restrictions largely lifted in the U.S., a majority of Americans (55%) say they plan to take a vacation this summer, up from 45% in 2011. Those earning over $50,000 per year (66%) are far more likely than those making less than $50,000 (38%) to have vacation plans.

Of those who are taking a vacation, 48% expect to take one or more long getaways. 43% think they will take shorter weekend trips, and 10% say they’re taking a staycation.

Among those NOT taking a summer vacation, 35% cite affordability as the main reason, 18% say they have no vacation time, 12% report concern about COVID, 12% say they take vacations in other seasons, 6% indicate coronavirus is preventing them from traveling to their destination.