A shopper carries retail bags in Miami on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.
CNN  — 

Despite months of increasingly positive economic indicators, the American public remains negative about the state of the nation’s economy, with 51% saying they think the economy is still in a downturn and getting worse, according to a new CNN poll.

This consistent pessimism, coupled with a stagnant and negative approval rating for President Joe Biden, could portend challenges for his attempt to sell voters on the success of his domestic agenda as a part of his 2024 reelection bid.

Biden’s overall approval rating stands at 41% in the new poll, about on par with where it’s been since the spring. His approval drops to 37% when Americans assess his handling of the economy and further still to 30% for his handling of inflation. Among political independents, a scant 26% approve of his handling of inflation.

Approval ratings for Vice President Kamala Harris are similar to Biden’s – 42% approve and 57% disapprove. But there are differences in how they’re viewed by key demographics that could have implications for the ticket’s reelection strategy.

Independents assess Harris somewhat more positively than they do Biden (42% approve of her handling of the job vs. 36% who approve of Biden). Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents younger than 45 are about as likely to approve of Harris’ handling of the job (71% approve) as they are to approve of Biden’s performance (70%), while older Democrats are more apt to approve of Biden than Harris (86% approve of Biden vs. 79% for Harris). And though Biden’s approval rating has softened among Black Americans and now regularly lands around 60% in national surveys (it stands at 61% in the new poll), Harris’s approval rating with Black adults is considerably higher at 72%.

The Democratic Party overcame deeply negative numbers for both Biden and the economy in 2022 to emerge with a better-than-expected performance in that year’s midterm elections. As traditional pre-election measures such as presidential approval and perception of the county’s direction become increasingly polarized and less frequently responsive to real-world events, the same could happen again in 2024, but nearly all presidents who were elected to a second term in the modern era of polling had stronger numbers at this point in their terms.

As low as they are now, views of Biden have ticked up since last summer’s low points. But there has been little movement recently on views of Biden, the public’s perception of the economy itself or the way things are going in the country more generally.

The public remains broadly negative about the state of the country, with just 29% saying things are going well in the US and 71% that they’re going poorly, roughly the same as earlier this year.

Two-thirds (68%) say that during this term, Congress has not done anything to effectively address the problems facing the country today. That’s a bit worse than just before the fall midterm elections, when 62% said the previous Congress had not done anything to effectively address the country’s problems.

Just before the 2022 elections, Democrats largely said that the Democratic-controlled Congress had taken effective steps to address problems (66% said so), but now, with partisan control of Congress divided between a GOP House and Democratic Senate, very few people of any partisan tilt seem to see Congress as effective (35% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans and just 27% of independents say it has done something to effectively address the nation’s problems).

In one notable shift since late last year, most now say they trust Republicans in Congress (54%) over Biden (45%) to deal with the major issues facing the country today. There’s a steep decline in trust for Biden among people of color who do not have college degrees (from 64% who trusted Biden more then to 49% now). Others hold largely similar views now as they did in December.

When asked which issue is the most important facing the country today, economic concerns continue to dominate, with 44% citing an economy-related issue such as the cost of living or inflation (19%); the economy generally (16%); or poverty, finances and money (3%). No other single issue was named by more than 10% of Americans.

Perceptions of the economy remain bleak. Overall, just 25% say economic conditions are at least somewhat good. That includes a scant 3% saying things are “very good,” a figure that has held under 5% for nearly two years. The partisan gap continues to be significant, particularly regarding deeply negative views: Most Republicans (54%) say that conditions are “very poor,” with only about 15% of Democrats saying the same. Among the full public, that very poor number currently stands at 34%, down from a Biden-era peak of 41% last summer but far higher than the 19% who felt that way at about the 100-day mark of his time in office.

About half (51%) say the nation’s economy is still in a downturn and conditions are continuing to worsen, while only 20% say they see the economy as improving. Another 28% say the economy has stabilized and is neither worsening nor improving.

Combining views of where the economy stands and how it is changing, 50% of Americans say both that economic conditions are poor and that they are getting worse, 19% say it’s bad but stable, and 5% that it’s poor but improving. Just 15% of adults see the economy as good and improving, while 8% say things are good and have stabilized and 2% that they’re OK now but worsening.

And, while Americans express more satisfaction with their personal finances than they do positive sentiment about the economy as a whole, more remain dissatisfied with their personal financial situation than are satisfied: 55% are dissatisfied – the same share who felt that way in October – while 45% are satisfied.

Much of the stagnation in these views comes from dug-in partisans.

Democrats are somewhat likelier now than they were six months ago to say the economy is recovering (39% now vs. 30% in December), but that movement is coming largely among those who already thought the economic bleeding had stopped, with 29% still saying they view the economy as facing a downturn, the same share as in December. Independents’ views have hardly budged (most say the economy is still worsening, 51% now vs. 56% in December), and Republican pessimism also remains widespread (74% say the economy is still in a downturn, about the same as the 75% who felt that way in December).

Democrats (55%) are more apt to be satisfied with their personal finances than are independents (40%) or Republicans (41%), a dynamic unchanged since October (55% of Democrats, 38% of independents and 42% of Republicans expressed satisfaction with their finances then).

Negative personal impacts due to the economy remain common and many still say that economic conditions are changing their spending patterns. Although inflation has begun to ease over the past few months, about seven in 10 say that they have changed the groceries they buy in order to stay within budget (71% now, same as in December) and have cut back on spending on extras and entertainment in order to afford necessities (70% now, 71% in December). About half in the new poll say they have cut back significantly on how much they drive (48%), largely unchanged since December despite shifting gas prices, and that they have changed or canceled plans to travel this summer (50%). A little over a third say they have had difficulty finding affordable housing (37%).

Some of this also appears tied to partisan sentiment. Republicans, for instance, are about 20 percentage points likelier than Democrats to report they’ve cut back on driving, and that pattern holds across income levels and age groups.

But among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, there are broad divides that suggest the younger, less educated and lower-income segments of the party remain deeply negative about the economy even as the higher-income, college-educated core of the party sees a rosier economic picture.

Democratic-aligned adults younger than 45, for example, are about 23 points less likely than older ones to say they feel satisfied with their personal financial situation. The equivalent gap for Republicans is 9 points. And lower-income Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are 17 points likelier to describe the nation’s economy as poor than higher-income Democrats are. Among Republicans, there is no difference by income in the share who call economic conditions poor.

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the gap in economic impacts between those with higher household incomes and those with lower ones is significantly larger than among Republican-aligned adults. For example, while a whopping 88% of Republican-aligned adults with incomes below $50,000 annually say they have changed their grocery-buying habits to stay within budget, only 66% of Republicans with incomes over $100,000 annually say the same. That 22-point gap, though, pales in comparison to the 43-point gap between Democratic-aligned adults with lower incomes (78% of those with incomes below $50,000 annually say they’ve changed their grocery shopping patterns) and higher ones (35% among those with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more).

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS from July 1 through July 31 among a random national sample of 1,279 adults initially reached by mail. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.