Biden’s approval rating on the economy stagnates despite slowing inflation, AP-NORC poll shows


 President Joe Biden has devoted the past several weeks to promoting the positive impacts of his policies — but his efforts have yet to meaningfully register with the public.

Only 36% of U.S. adults approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, slightly lower than the 42% who approve of his overall performance, according to the new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Both figures are close to where Biden’s approval numbers have stood for about the past year and a half, including just two months ago. Signs of an improving economic outlook have done little to sway how people feel about the Democratic president as he gears up for a 2024 reelection campaign that could pit him against his predecessor and 2020 opponent, Republican Donald Trump.

Job growth has stayed solid with the unemployment rate at 3.5%, while the pace of inflation has slowed sharply over the past year to the annual rate of 3.2%.

Both Biden and Trump have weaknesses as older candidates seeking a rematch. Trump, 77, faces a series of criminal indictments that include his possession of classified material and allegations that he tried to overturn the 2020 election, which has rallied support among Republicans while leaving him with substantial vulnerabilities in a potential general election contest.

Biden, 80, has yet to fully bring Democrats to his side as the lingering aftershocks of inflation still weigh on people’s minds. Along with members of his cabinet and Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden has been speaking about the $500 billion worth of new investments by private companies that he said came from incentives he signed into law.

Erica Basile, a teacher who describes herself as a “staunch Democrat,” said she feels the economy is “mediocre, but improving.”

“I do think in many ways they’re working very hard at getting the economy back on track post-COVID,” said Basile, who lives in Lynnwood, Washington.

Just 65% of Democrats approve of Biden’s economic leadership, while 76% approve of how he’s handling the job overall.

In follow-up interviews, some survey respondents felt torn between the desire to return to a sense of normalcy after Trump’s presidency and the desire for even more sweeping policies to address climate change, health care costs, and taxes.

“When Joe Biden was selected to be the nominee and eventually won, my feeling at the time was that he could be the most milquetoast and undramatic president to help the country cool down,” said Steven Peters, 41, who works in information technology in White House, Tennessee. “Unfortunately, that’s what he’s been. I’m dissatisfied because I had hoped there would be more change.”

Peters added, “He’s really middle of the road when a lot of people would like to see more dramatic action.”

For GOP supporters, such as Merritt Rahn, 74, Biden has gone too far. Rahn said he is retired but also works at Home Depot and sees higher gasoline and food costs as making it harder for families to get by financially. The Jensen Beach, Florida, resident said Biden will further hurt the U.S. by moving energy sources away from oil and gas.

“It’s a death to our society and economy,” said Rahn, who added that he believes Biden “has no clue what’s going on.”

The poll also found that 55% of Democrats say they don’t think Biden should run again in 2024, though a large majority — 82% — say they would definitely or probably support him if he is the nominee. Overall, only 24% of Americans say they want Biden to run again.

Among Democrats who approve of how Biden is handling the economy, 58% would like him to seek another term. Just 20% of those who disapprove of his performance on the issue want the incumbent president to run again.

Biden continues to struggle to appeal to younger Democrats, especially on the economy. Only 52% of Democrats under age 45 say they approve of his handling of the economy, compared with 77% of those older.

The president has used the term “Bidenomics” to try to encompass his ideas to lower costs for people on Medicare, shift toward electric vehicles and renewable energy, and build factories for advanced computer chips and batteries. Yet some are still struggling to understand what the term means.

Asked about the definition of Bidenomics, Cory O’Brien, 39, said: “You know what, dude, I have no idea. Biden is a free market capitalist like most moderate Democrats are.”

The age gap extends to Biden’s reelection campaign: Just 34% of Democrats under 45 want him to run again, compared with 54% of those older than that. Still, about three-quarters of younger Democrats say they’ll most likely support him if he’s the nominee, though only 28% say they definitely will.

O’Brien, who works in education and lives in Massachusetts, said he expects the 2024 election to be “miserable” for voters because of the likely Biden and Trump rematch.

“I think it’s going to be a miserable election cycle,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot of the same stuff that we saw in 2020.”

Biden also faces renewed pressure related to investigations over his son Hunter’s business dealings. The poll finds that a majority of Americans — 58% — have hardly any confidence in Biden to reduce corruption in government, though that’s unchanged since January. Another 30% have some confidence and 10% have hardly any.

The poll shows that 23% of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in Biden’s ability to effectively manage the White House, 31% have some confidence and 45% have hardly any. Despite the fact that Biden has achieved several of his major policy goals, just 16% say they have high confidence in his ability to do that, while 38% say they have some confidence and 44% hardly any.

Few Americans say they think the national economy is doing well: 34% describe it as very or somewhat good. No more than about a third of Americans have called the economy good since 2021.

 The Teamsters flexed their muscles during contract negotiations with UPS last month, securing pay hikes for drivers and scoring other wins.

But at Amazon, the picture looks much different.

Since late June, dozens of Amazon drivers and dispatchers who work for a California-based delivery firm that the Teamsters unionized in April have been picketing company warehouses as far out as Michigan and Massachusetts, calling on the e-commerce behemoth to come to the table and bargain over pay and working conditions.

Amazon has essentially said no. Teamsters say the strike will continue until Amazon reinstates the employees and comes to the bargaining table.

Though small, the dispute in California signals what’s poised to be the next battlefront in Amazon’s efforts to fend off organized labor and the Teamsters’ years-long aim to take on one of their most formidable opponents.

During speeches and interviews in recent months, Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien has aired his belief that a strong UPS contract would also bolster the union’s organizing prospects at Amazon, where the sole labor group — made up of current and former warehouse workers who won a union election last year — is still without a contract amid objections and appeals from the company.

“Workers at Amazon are paying attention to the workers at UPS right now,” said Randy Korgan, who was appointed by O’Brien last year to lead the union’s recently launched Amazon division. “These are similar workers that look just like them — doing very similar work to what they’re doing.”

The setup at Amazon, however, is much different. Though the delivery drivers are clothed in the ubiquitous gray-blue Amazon vests and drive similarly colored vans, they’re not directly employed by the company. Instead, they work for the more than 3,000 delivery service partners or DSPs, that Amazon has recruited to drop off packages to customers.

Amazon’s business model originally relied heavily on other carriers, including UPS and the U.S. Postal Service where unions had major sway on pay and working conditions. But in the past few years, it has been reducing its dependence on other shippers and expanding its own logistics capability.

Most Amazon shipments these days go through the company’s own last-mile network, the final leg of a delivery that relies on DSPs that handle more than 10 million Amazon packages every day. Outsourcing the work allows Amazon to eschew financial and legal liability that might come from directly employing hundreds of thousands of drivers. It also gives the retailer more cover from unionization attempts since the workers aren’t classified as Amazon employees under existing labor law.

The Teamsters are seeking to challenge that in California. In a complaint filed in May with the National Labor Relations Board, the union argued Amazon should be considered a single or joint employer with Battle Tested Strategies, a DSP that employs more than 80 delivery drivers and dispatchers. The Teamsters maintain that Battle Tested Strategies belongs to a system that’s “owned and controlled” by Amazon.

Amazon claims the union is spreading a false narrative about how its business works. The company also said that it terminated Battle Tested Strategies even before its workers unionized, accusing it of six breaches of contract, including failing to pay for insurance. Battle Tested Strategies — one of many DSPs that operate in California — stopped delivering for Amazon in late June.

Johnathon Ervin, an Air Force veteran who owns Battle Tested Strategies, said he applied for Amazon’s delivery program in 2018 and launched his business the next year after months of training. Initially, he got five vans from the company and began deliveries in El Monte, a city in Los Angeles roughly 60 miles south of Palmdale, where the firm is located.

Ervin said it was exciting at first, but it soon became challenging as his business grew and costs crept up for vehicle maintenance, insurance, and other things like overtime pay during peak seasons. Amazon gives delivery firms a pot of money to cover expenses for every route they’re given, but he said it didn’t cover everything, like all overtime expenses for workers.

Figuring out how to be profitable also became a headache. The company installs devices in vans that monitor drivers’ habits, and issues a weekly scorecard rating their performance on things like delivery completion from a scale from poor to “fantastic plus.” Those ratings determine how much DSPs make per package, but Ervin said the way Amazon assesses drivers and the way delivery firms do might not always line up.

“It’s a really insidious data driven-control that they use to manipulate and move folks in the direction that they want them to go,” he said.

Amazon spokesperson Mary Kate Paradis countered DSP rates vary by location across the country and the vast majority of those surveyed “say they’re within or above the projected profitability range of $75,000 and $300,000 per year.” In response to Ervin’s claims about failing to pay for overtime expenses, Paradis said DSPs are responsible for paying their employees.

The Teamsters seem to be taking a long-term approach to organizing at Amazon. In the past few years, the union has been pushing back on Amazon projects in local communities and questioning the company’s federal contracts, among other things.

John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, said focusing on subcontractors is also a good starting point for the Teamsters because its easier to organize those firms compared to larger Amazon warehouses.

But he also noted the union’s campaign still seems somewhat underdeveloped because it’s been focused on getting a good contract at UPS. The Teamsters’ only other Amazon union victory was short-lived: In 2017, delivery drivers in Michigan who worked at a company that contracts with Amazon voted to organize. But Amazon dissolved their contract shortly thereafter.

“Amongst other groups and younger people in the labor movement... they are very enthusiastic about the idea about not only organizing Amazon but that there’s a very powerful union that’s prepared to put resources into that,” Logan said. “But it hasn’t happened yet. So we don’t really know.”

After three months of walking the picket lines, striking Hollywood writers expressed optimism on Wednesday about the reopening of contract talks with major studios and the possibility they could be back at work in weeks.

Details of the latest proposal from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the trade group representing Walt Disney (DIS.N), Netflix (NFLX.O) and other major studios and streamers, remain shrouded in secrecy. Still, members of the Writers Guild of America see reason for hope.

"I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. I was here for the 2007-8 strike and talking can go very slowly, talking can break down or talking, if they come with a real deal, can go pretty quickly," "Flashpoint" writer Pam Davis told Reuters outside Amazon Studios in Culver City.

"So, I'm kind of in the camp where I think we're gonna be back to work in September," she added. "But if we're not, we're okay with that. If it's not the right deal, we're not going to take it," she added.

Writers went on strike on May 2 over an impasse on compensation, minimum staffing in writers' rooms, residual payments, and curbs on artificial intelligence. They were joined on the picket lines on July 14 by members of the Screen Actors Guild, effectively halting much of U.S. film and scripted television production.

In what would be a sign of progress in a months-long labor dispute, negotiators for the WGA and AMPTP met on Tuesday to discuss the latest contract proposal, more than 100 days into the strike.

"They're talking again when they weren't a couple of weeks ago," said WGA liaison and "Physical" writer K.C. Scott. "That's what I'm holding onto."

Scott added that while he doesn't know what AMPTP offered the guild, the WGA is preparing a counteroffer that he trusts will be in the best interest of the writers.

While "Law and Order" writer and WGA liaison Terri Kopp is also upbeat about talks with studios continuing, she is concerned about information leaking from their confidential negotiating sessions.

"It makes us suspicious because the leaks are designed to make them (the studios) look good and the WGA look bad," Kopp said. "I think there's a possibility they're trying to get our hopes up and then pull the football out like Lucy."

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