Monmouth Poll: Half Say Middle Class not Benefiting at All from Biden Policies

Gottheimer and Biden.

 Few Americans say President Joe Biden’s policies have provided a lot of help to middle-class families – or to poor or wealthy families for that matter. The Monmouth University Poll also finds that worries about the impact of inflation on Americans’ pocketbooks have ebbed but it remains a top concern.

Just 10% of Americans say middle-class families have benefited a lot from Biden’s policies so far while 51% say the middle class has not benefited at all. In the first months of his term, more said the middle class benefited a lot (19% in June 2021) and fewer said not at all (36%). Biden’s current numbers are similar to where former President Donald Trump stood in the first year of his administration (11% a lot and 53% not at all in December 2017), but those results improved by the end of his term (32% a lot and 32% not at all).

Former President Barack Obama left office with ratings of 24% a lot and 33% not at all on how his policies helped the middle class. Of note, 44% of Democrats said Obama helped the middle class a lot in January 2017, but only 21% say the same about Biden now. Among independents, 36% said Obama did not help the middle class at all. Today, about 6 in 10 independents (59%) say the same about Biden. When asked about the current president’s impact on other economic groups, 28% say Biden’s policies have benefited wealthy families a lot and 29% say not at all, and 17% say his policies have benefited poor families a lot and 42% say not at all.

“Biden’s appeal when he ran for president was that he understands the average Joe. Reaction to his policy agenda, however, suggests it is an area where he remains weak,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Currently, 38% of Americans describe themselves as middle class, 29% as working class, 14% as poor, and 16% as upper middle class or higher. There are only small partisan differences in these self-reports of economic status. However, there are partisan differences in response to a question about financial stability. Overall, 4 in 10 Americans (41%) say they are struggling to remain where they are financially, while 46% feel their finances are stable and just 12% say their situation is improving. The current results are in line with polling conducted last year. In prior polls conducted between 2017 and 2021, the number who said they were struggling ranged within a lower level between 20% and 29%. Currently, the number of Americans who feel they are struggling include nearly 9 in 10 of those who consider themselves to be poor, about half of the working class, nearly 3 in 10 of the middle class, and about 1 in 8 of those who are upper middle class or even better off. In terms of partisanship, Republicans (45%) and independents (46%) are more likely than Democrats (28%) to report they are struggling. There were no partisan differences on this question in 2017 – 28% of Republicans, 28% of independents, and 31% of Democrats said they were struggling then (* see note).

One-quarter of the public names inflation (24%) or rising gas prices (1%) as the biggest concern facing their family right now, which is down from the number who said the same last summer (33% for inflation in general and 15% for gas prices specifically). The economy (12%) and paying bills (12%) are among other top concerns mentioned. Six years ago, affording health care was the biggest concern for American families (25% in January 2017), followed by job security (14%) and everyday bills (12%). Today, just 4% mention health care costs and 5% name job security as their top worry.

Half of those who name a family concern (49%) say the federal government’s actions over the past six months have hurt their family when it comes to that issue. Just 10% say they have been helped and 38% say federal actions have had no real impact on their top concern. This result is slightly better than last year as inflation concerns peaked and 57% said that federal government actions hurt them. However, the 1 in 10 number saying government has helped them is on the lower end of that metric since Monmouth started asking this question in 2015. Six years ago, when health care was the dominant issue, 27% said the federal government was helpful and 37% said it was hurtful. Nearly half of Democrats (48%) in 2017 said federal action helped with their family’s top concern, but just 19% say the same today. Conversely, 61% of Republicans said the federal government hurt them when it came to their top concern in 2017, and this number has risen further to 71% in 2023.

In general, few Americans feel that members of Congress give a great deal (6%) or even some (28%) weight to the concerns of average Americans when they decide which policies to support. Democrats (42%) are somewhat more likely than Republicans (33%) or independents (30%) to feel that Congress gives at least some weight to average Americans’ concerns. These overall results are similar to Monmouth’s 2017 poll, although Republicans were slightly more positive about Congress then (45% said they give a great deal or some weight, compared with 39% of Democrats and 36% of independents).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from March 16 to 20, 2023 with 805 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 5.8 percentage points for the full sample. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

* Note on partisan results for financial situation question (Q10):

Monmouth’s question asking respondents to assess their current financial situation seems straightforward, but like almost all aspects of public discourse today, is filtered through a partisan lens. Even though the overall results for this question remained relatively stable from 2017 through 2021, there were substantial partisan shifts after the White House changed hands. Specifically, 24% of Americans said they were struggling financially in both 2018 and 2021. However, the number of Republicans who reported this situation jumped from 14% to 30% after the presidency changed from Trump to Biden, while the number of Democrats who said they were struggling dropped from 34% to 17%. The results for independents were relatively stable (23% in 2018 and 27% in 2021). Thus, the results of this question as a neutral snapshot of personal finances should be viewed with this caveat in mind. Reports of struggling financially have increased since 2021 among all partisan groups, but more so among Republicans (+15 points) and independents (+19) than among Democrats (+11).

 

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

 

[Q1-4 previously released.]

 

  1. Turning to issues closer to home, what is the biggest concern facing your family right now?

[LIST WAS NOT READ]

  TREND: March

2023

June

2022

Dec.

2021

July

2021

Aug.

2020

March

2020

April

2019

April

2018

Jan.

2017

Jan.

2015

Job security, unemployment 5% 3% 6% 7% 10% 7% 7% 9% 14% 16%
Health care costs 4% 3% 5% 7% 4% 5% 19% 13% 25% 15%
Everyday bills, groceries, etc. 12% 6% 15% 11% 8% 6% 8% 12% 12% 16%
College tuition, school costs 1% 2% 1% 2% 1% 0% 3% 4% 4% 10%
Housing, mortgage, rent 4% 2% 2% 3% 2% 1% 2% 4% 3% 4%
Retirement saving 1% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 0% 1% 2% 3%
Social Security, seniors 2% 1% 1% 1% 1% 0% 3% 3% 3% 2%
Taxes 2% 1% 2% 3% 1% 1% 9% 7% 4% 7%
Family illness, health 2% 1% 4% 3% 4% 3% 3% 3% 3% 4%
Safety, crime 3% 2% 3% 3% 3% 1% 3% 3% 3% 2%
Terrorism, national security 1% 0% 0% 1% 1% 0% 1% 2% 2% 1%
Immigration 3% 0% 1% 2% 0% 0% 5% 4% 3% 1%
The economy 12% 9% 6% 11% 7% 5% 6% 3% 3% 2%
Abortion, reproductive rights 2% 5% n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Education policy 2% 1% 1% 3% 3% 1% 2% 2% 1% 2%
Climate change, environment 1% 1% 2% 3% 0% 1% 3% 1% 1% n/a
Quality of government 2% 1% 4% 3% 3% 0% 2% 3% 1% 2%
Civil rights 3% 1% 1% 3% 1% 0% 3% 1% 3% n/a
Guns, gun ownership 0% 3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 2% n/a n/a
Coronavirus/COVID-19 0% 1% 18% 17% 39% 57% n/a n/a n/a n/a
Inflation 24% 33% 14% 5% n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Gas prices 1% 15% n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Other 5% 5% 2% 3% 4% 3% 6% 6% 3% 4%
Don’t know/No answer 10% 6% 11% 9% 8% 9% 16% 15% 10% 8%
(n) (805) (978) (808) (804) (868) (851) (801) (803) (801) (1,003)

 

[Question 6 was asked only of those who mentioned a concern in Q5: n=735, moe=+/-6.1 %]

  1. Thinking about this most important concern, have the actions of the federal government over the past six months helped, hurt, or had no real impact on this concern?
TREND: March

2023

June

2022

Dec.

2021*

July

2021

April
2019**
April
2018**
Jan.
2017***
Jan.
2015***
Helped 10% 8% 25% 31% 14% 14% 27% 14%
Hurt 49% 57% 46% 34% 42% 39% 37% 47%
No real impact 38% 34% 27% 31% 42% 44% 34% 38%
(VOL) Don’t know 3% 1% 2% 3% 2% 3% 2% 2%
(n) (735) (931) (747) (730) (692) (680) (728) (926)

* Dec. 2021 asked about “since the beginning of the year”

        ** 2019 and 2018 asked about “the past year”

*** 2017 and 2015 asked about “the past few years”

 

  1. How much have each of the following groups benefited from President Biden’s policies so far.  [READ ITEM] – Have they benefited a lot, a little, or not at all? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

 

Middle class families

   COMPARISON:       Benefited under Trump Benefited under Obama
March
2023
June
2022
Nov.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
    Jan.
2021
April

2019

April
2018
Dec.
2017
    Jan.

2017

July

2013

A lot 10% 7% 14% 21% 19%     32% 18% 14% 11%     24% 12%
A little 36% 34% 39% 41% 32%     33% 37% 45% 25%     41% 39%
Not at all 51% 54% 42% 33% 36%     32% 36% 36% 53%     33% 46%
(VOL) Don’t know 3% 5% 5% 5% 14%     3% 9% 5% 11%     2% 2%
(n) (805) (978) (811) (804) (810)     (809) (801) (803) (806)     (801) (1,012)

 

Wealthy families

   COMPARISON:     Benefited under Trump Benefited under Obama
March
2023
June
2022
Nov.
2021
July
2021
    April
2019
April
2018
    Jan.

2017

July

2013

A lot 28% 28% 25% 22%     58% 57%     29% 35%
A little 31% 25% 28% 30%     22% 26%     43% 31%
Not at all 29% 35% 32% 35%     9% 7%     17% 23%
(VOL) Don’t know 12% 12% 14% 14%     11% 10%     10% 10%
(n) (805) (978) (811) (804)     (801) (803)     (801) (1,012)

 

Poor families

   COMPARISON:   Benefited under Trump Benefited under Obama
March
2023
June
2022
Nov.
2021
July
2021
April
2019
April
2018
    Jan.

2017

July

2013

A lot 17% 13% 22% 31% 14% 12%     39% 20%
A little 35% 30% 38% 35% 26% 28%     36% 39%
Not at all 42% 52% 36% 29% 51% 53%     21% 37%
(VOL) Don’t know 6% 5% 4% 5% 9% 7%     4% 4%
(n) (805) (978) (811) (804)     (801) (803)     (801) (1,012)

 

  1. How much weight do members of Congress give to the concerns of average Americans when they decide which policies to support – a great deal, some, not much, or none at all?
TREND: March

2023

Jan.

2017

Great deal 6% 7%
Some 28% 32%
Not much 39% 39%
None at all 23% 19%
(VOL) Depends/Don’t know 3% 3%
(n) (805) (801)

 

  1. Would you describe your current financial situation as poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, or better off than that?
TREND: March

2023

Jan.

2017

Poor 14% 13%
Working class 29% 30%
Middle class 38% 40%
Upper middle class 12% 14%
Better off than that 4% 2%
(VOL) Other/Don’t know 3% 2%
(n) (805) (801)

 

  1. Thinking about your current financial situation, would you say you are struggling to remain where you are financially, basically stable in your current financial situation, or is your financial situation improving?
  TREND: March

2023

Oct.
2022
June
2022
June
2021
Late June
2020
Early June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
April
2019
April
2018
Jan.
2017
Struggling 41% 37% 42% 24% 22% 20% 23% 26% 26% 20% 24% 29%
Stable 46% 51% 47% 58% 61% 65% 63% 62% 61% 54% 51% 51%
Improving 12% 11% 9% 14% 17% 13% 13% 11% 11% 25% 23% 20%
(VOL) Don’t know 2% 2% 1% 3% 1% 1% 1% 2% 1% 1% 2% 0%
(n) (805) (808) (978) (810) (867) (807) (808) (857) (851) (801) (803) (801)

 

[Q11-17 held for future release.]

[Q18-27 previously released.]

 

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from March 16 to 20, 2023 with a probability-based national random sample of 805 adults age 18 and older. This includes 284 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 521 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through a mix of random digit dialing and list-based sampling. Landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata (RDD, n= 479), Aristotle (list, n= 133) and a panel of prior Monmouth poll participants (n= 193). Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2021 one-year survey). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points, adjusted for sample design effects (1.68). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

 

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
25% Republican
45% Independent
30% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
29% 18-34
33% 35-54
38% 55+
 
61% White
12% Black
17% Hispanic
10% Asian/Other
 
67% No degree
33% 4 year degree

 

MARGIN OF ERROR
unweighted  sample moe
(+/-)
TOTAL   805 5.8%
REGISTERED VOTER Yes 748 6.0%
No 57 21.8%
SELF-REPORTED PARTY ID Republican 216 11.2%
Independent 331 9.1%
Democrat 243 10.6%
IDEOLOGY Liberal 183 12.2%
Moderate 330 9.1%
Conservative 258 10.3%
GENDER Male 395 8.3%
Female 410 8.1%
AGE 18-34 124 14.8%
35-54 291 9.7%
55+ 389 8.4%
CHILDREN IN HOME Yes 201 11.6%
No 600 6.7%
RACE White, non-Hispanic 573 6.9%
Other 216 11.2%
COLLEGE GRADUATE No degree 394 8.3%
4 year degree 407 8.2%
WHITE COLLEGE White, no degree 288 9.7%
White, 4 year degree 284 9.8%
INCOME <$50K 231 10.8%
$50 to <$100K 232 10.8%
$100K+ 300 9.5%

 

Crosstabs may be found in the PDF file on the report webpage:  https://www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/monmouthpoll_US_041123/

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