As 2019 comes to a close, the US economy earns its highest ratings in almost two decades, potentially boosting President Donald Trump in matchups against the Democrats vying to face him in next year’s election, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
Overall, 76% rate economic conditions in the US today as very or somewhat good, significantly more than those who said so at this time last year (67%). This is the highest share to say the economy is good since February 2001, when 80% said so.
Almost all Republicans (97%) say economic conditions are good right now, as do 75% of independents and 62% of Democrats. Positive ratings are up across parties compared with August of this year, when 91% of Republicans, 62% of independents and 47% of Democrats said the economy was in good shape.
Looking ahead, nearly 7 in 10 expect the economy to be in good shape a year from now (68%), the best outlook in CNN polling since December 2003. The new finding includes 63% who say things are good now and will continue to be good next year, while just 9% say they economy is currently good but will turn south in 2020.
The matchups against Trump
As perceptions of the economy have brightened, the poll also shows matchups between the top Democrats vying for the 2020 nomination and Trump tightening. In October, four Democrats tested in hypothetical head-to-head contests with Trump among registered voters lead by anywhere from six to 10 percentage points, all advantages outside that poll’s margin of sampling error.
Now, just two of those candidates hold edges at or above the error margin: former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump nationally 49% to 44%, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tops Trump 49% to 45%. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg each run about even with the President.
The poll was conducted before the House voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday and the Democrats held their sixth primary debate on Thursday.
Across battleground states (a group which includes the 15 states decided by 8 points or less in 2016) – all four Democrats run within the margin of error of Trump. Biden and Trump tie at 47% each, while Trump holds 48% support to Warren’s 46%, 48% to Buttigieg’s 43%, and 49% to Sanders’ 45%.
The tighter margins against the president come as favorability ratings appear to be sliding for the top Democratic contenders, according to results from the same poll released earlier this week. Biden notches his first net-negative rating in CNN’s polling since 2015, with 39% now holding a favorable view and 47% unfavorable.
Sanders splits the public: 43% see him favorably, 44% unfavorably, a dip since October but about on par with his ratings earlier this year.
Warren’s favorable numbers have slipped 4 points since October and are significantly net-negative now, 34% favorable to 43% unfavorable. Buttigieg has seen an uptick in unfavorable views (27% now, up from 23% in October) to match his favorable rating (27%), but he remains the least-well-known of the top Democratic contenders, with 46% saying they haven’t heard of him or don’t know enough to have an opinion.
The President’s favorability rating has remained steady since CNN’s October poll – 43% have a favorable opinion of Trump, 53% unfavorable.
But shifts in views on the Democratic candidates may not be as negative a sign as they were in 2016. Those registered voters who hold an unfavorable opinion of Trump and his Democratic opponent are much more likely to favor the Democratic candidate over Trump in that matchup. Among those who have a negative opinion of both Trump and Biden, for example, 72% support Biden in a hypothetical matchup while 9% prefer Trump. Those who don’t like either Sanders or Trump break for Sanders, 59% to 18%, and the pattern holds for Warren and Buttigieg as well.
In 2016, by contrast, those who had an unfavorable opinion of both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Trump broke for Trump 47% to 30% for Clinton, with 19% backing third party candidates, according to exit polls.
Trade and USMCA
More than half (55%) approve of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – the new trade agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada which would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, fulfilling a prominent campaign promise in Trump’s 2016 run for the presidency.
Fewer (13%) disapprove and around a third aren’t sure or don’t have an opinion of Trump’s proposed trade deal. Already, the agreement provokes partisan division, with 70% of Republicans approving, 53% of independents and 44% of Democrats.
Seven in 10 see foreign trade generally as more of an opportunity for economic growth through increased US exports (71%) rather than a threat to the economy from foreign imports (16%), steady since this time last year. On that, there is rare partisan agreement. Around seven in 10 Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that foreign trade is an opportunity for growth.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS December 12 through 15 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. For results among the subset of 888 registered voters, the error margin is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.