WASHINGTON – A recent Gallup poll has some encouraging news for President Donald Trump as his battle for reelection heats up: more than six in 10 Americans say they are better off than they were three years ago when he took office, and about the same number credit him for the improvement.
No incumbent president in the past three decades has enjoyed such a high percentage of people feeling better about their situations. In 2012, when former President Barack Obama was in the White House, 45% of Americans told Gallup they were better off than they were three years ago. In 2004, 1996 and 1992 the number was 50%.
In the survey, 61% said they were better off, 36% said they were not and 3% said they were about the same.
And a strong majority of Americans (62%) said Trump should get credit for improving the economy. Thirty-seven percent said he deserves a “great deal” of credit and 25% said he deserves a “fair amount.” Nineteen percent said he should not take much credit and 18% said he deserved none at all.
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But 51% also thought Obama deserved at least a fair amount of credit for the current economy, while 25% said he did not deserve much and 23% said he should get none at all.
Twenty-nine percent of Americans said the economy was the most important issue for them when voting for president, which was more than those who said health care (26%), immigration (14%), gun policy (13%), education (10%) and terrorism (5%).
In January, Gallup found Trump with his highest job approval rating (49%) since taking office. Sixty-three percent of Americans in that survey said they approved of Trump’s handling of the economy, the highest rating for any president since President George W. Bush’s approval ratings soared after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
While such numbers are encouraging for those hoping for Trump’s reelection, previous elections haven’t always gone the way one might predict based on how many people think their situation has improved.
In 2012, 52% of Americans said they were not better off than they had been, making Obama the only recent incumbent to face reelection with most of the country thinking their personal situation had deteriorated. Yet, he went on to defeat Mitt Romney in November that year.
And in 1992, 61% said they were at least as well off as they were at the start of 1989 when President George H.W. Bush took office, compared to 38% who said they were worse off. But Bush nonetheless became a one-term president and lost to Bill Clinton.
The results of Gallup’s survey were divided along party lines. While 89% of Republicans and 60% of independents said they were better off, only 29% of Democrats felt that was the case. By comparison, 60% of Democrats said they were better off in 2012, but only 46% of independents and 27% of Republicans said the same.
The incumbent with the most bipartisan result was Clinton in 1996, when 49% of Republicans, 50% of independents and 53% of Democrats said they were better off.
The Gallup survey was conducted from Jan. 16-29 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
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