President Trump has lain waste to many of the norms and conventional wisdoms of American politics. But among them could soon be a couple of the biggest ones — and not in his favor.

If there are two phrases that have come to define presidential elections over the past four decades, they might be these: “It’s the economy, stupid,” and “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Neither appears to be nearly enough to save Trump’s presidency.

In recent days and weeks, Trump has turned to touting a supposed V-shaped economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic, while also citing polls suggesting that Americans feel they are better off than before he became president.

Trump has tweeted four times about a Gallup poll this month in which 56 percent of Americans said they were better off relative to four years ago, while 32 percent said they were worse off.

“Fifty-six percent of the people in a pandemic are better off now than they were under the Obama-Biden,” Trump said last week. “And it’s the best number, I think they said, ever recorded — and we’re in a pandemic. It’s not anybody’s fault, but we’re in a pandemic, 56 percent.”

“The Gallup Poll has just come out with the incredible finding that 56% of you say that you are better off today, during a pandemic, than you were four years ago (OBiden),” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “Highest number on record! Pretty amazing!”

It’s doubly amazing, though, when you consider that Trump is a distinct underdog right now. And some polls this week showed why.

A New York Times-Siena College poll echoed the Gallup poll to some extent, with 49 percent of Americans saying they are better off than four years ago, while just 32 percent said they are worse off. By the logic of the man who initially made the question famous in 1980, Ronald Reagan, this would suggest that Americans will vote for Trump because they are happy with their relative life status.

But then the Times-Siena poll asked people a slightly different version of the question: Setting aside how people personally felt about their situation, it asked, “Do you think America is better off or worse off than it was four years ago?”

On this question, the verdict was distinctly different. Just 39 percent said the country was better off than four years ago, while 55 percent said it was worse off. When it came to whether things were worse than four years ago, the number jumped from 32 percent for people’s personal situations to 55 percent for the country’s situation — increasing by at least 16 points for every demographic except Republicans. Positive views overall dropped from 49 percent to 39 percent.

The split is similar in other recent polling.

In a USA Today-Suffolk University poll released Wednesday, for instance, 51 percent of Pennsylvania voters said they were better off compared with four years ago, while 30 percent said they were worse off. But voters said by an even larger 57-to-32 margin that the country was on the wrong track.

Similarly, a Financial Times-Peterson Foundation poll shows that, when you invoke Trump by name in the “better off” question — asking about how things have changed since he took office — voters are split 32 percent to 32 percent.

The same split decision holds in reviews of Trump’s economic record. While this was clearly an asset for him for much of his presidency — and appeared to be his chief concern early in the coronavirus pandemic — most recent polls show a nearly equal split on his handling of the economy and that it’s an issue on which Democratic nominee Joe Biden has drawn about even.

Even in the polls in which Trump’s economic performance has majority support, including this month’s Washington Post-ABC News poll (54 percent approval on the economy), Trump’s overall approval lags behind (45 percent), and he still trails Biden (by 12 points).

If you had said at the start of the election that a president like Trump would have close to a majority — or even a majority, period — on both the economy and the are-you-better-off question, the conventional wisdom would have held that he would be a strong favorite for reelection.

The fact that he’s decidedly far from that is merely the latest evidence that Trump may have squandered what should have been a winning hand in his reelection campaign, if he could just have avoided all the noise. And it provides the latest evidence that perhaps we should readjust our political assumptions in the Trump era.

In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads President Trump, with 54 percent of likely voters favoring him vs. 42 percent for Trump.

How to vote: Find out the rules in your state. Some states have already started sending out mail ballots; see how to make sure yours counts. Here’s how many people have already voted. Absentee and mail ballots are two terms for the same thing, mostly used interchangeably. Are you running into voting problems? Let us know.

Wondering if that thing you saw about voting is true? Check out news, analysis and fact checking about allegations involving the voting process here.

Electoral college map: Who actually votes, and who do they vote for? Explore how shifts in turnout and voting patterns for key demographic groups could affect the presidential race.

Policy: Where Biden and Trump stand on key issues defining the election.

Battlegrounds: These are the 50 political states of America. Dive into Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Arizona, Georgia, Texas and Ohio, and sign up for The Trailer and get more states, plus more news and insight from the trail, in your inbox three days a week.

Coming up: Trump and Biden are scheduled to debate one more time this fall; here’s what to know about the 2020 presidential debates.

Have questions about the election process? Ask us here.

The most important news stories of the day, curated by Post editors and delivered every morning.

By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

With hundreds of billions of dollars out the door, Congress slowly begins oversight of coronavirus spending

Senate Democrats plan to press White House lawyer Brian Miller on Tuesday about his ability to act independently of President Trump if he is confirmed as a new inspector general, setting up one of Congress’s first clashes about the government’s…

Judge rules LA County must show cause for ban on outdoor dining

Primo Italia owner Lou Giovannetti blasts ‘irresponsible’ shutdown orders on ‘The Ingraham Angle’ A California judge reversed course Wednesday and ordered health officials in Los Angeles to show scientific evidence to justify the recently enacted three-week ban on dine-in service.  The decision came just…

HUD to change transgender rules for single-sex homeless shelters

Single-sex homeless shelters could choose to accommodate only people whose biological sex matches that of those they serve, under a rule to be proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the coming weeks. The proposed rule would…

U.S. House committee renews push for Pompeo Iran testimony, subpoena threat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. House of Representatives committee renewed a threat on Friday to subpoena Secretary of State Mike Pompeo if he does not provide information about Iran policy and President Donald Trump’s ordering of the strike that killed…