Public’s views of the economy remain very negative amid continued inflation concerns

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How we did this

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand how the public views Joe Biden, congressional leaders and the economy. For this analysis, we surveyed 5,152 adults from Jan. 18-24, 2023. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

Here are the questions used for the report and its methodology.

As partisan battles over the debt ceiling and other key issues loom and the GOP takes back control of the House of Representatives following last fall’s midterm elections, most Republicans say they want their party’s leaders to take a hard line in their dealings with President Joe Biden and the Democrats.

Chart shows Republicans less likely than Democrats to favor compromise if it means disappointing their party’s voters

More than six-in-ten Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican Party (64%) say that Republican congressional leaders should “stand up” to Biden on matters that are important to GOP voters, even if this makes it harder to address critical problems facing the country. About half as many Republicans – 34% – would prefer to see the party’s congressional leaders work with Biden, even if doing so requires them to make concessions that disappoint some GOP voters, a new Pew Research Center survey has found.

Democrats are more likely to say they would support efforts by their leaders to find common ground with the other party. A majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (58%) say that Biden should try as best he can to work with GOP leaders to accomplish things, even at the cost of disappointing some of Biden’s voters. Roughly four-in-ten Democrats (41%) prefer that Biden stand up to Republicans, even if that makes it harder to address the nation’s important problems.

The partisan gap on this question has persisted throughout Biden’s presidency so far. Democrats also expressed more openness to compromise than Republicans at the beginning of both 2022 and 2021. Yet those in both parties are somewhat more open to compromise than they were last January: A year ago, 72% of Republicans and 48% of Democrats favored their leaders standing up to the other party over working together to accomplish things.

Chart shows public is widely concerned that GOP will focus too much on investigating Biden administration, rather than not enough

Even before the Department of Justice appointed a special counsel to review Biden’s handling of classified documents earlier this month, House Republicans had promised to use their new majority to pursue several investigations into Biden’s presidency and his family. Today, 56% of Republicans and Republican leaners say they are more concerned that their party’s representatives in Congress will not focus enough on investigating the administration, while 42% say they are more concerned that Republicans in Congress will be too focused on these investigations at the expense of other priorities.

Among all U.S. adults, 65% are more concerned that Republicans in Congress will focus too much on investigating the Biden administration, while 32% are more concerned that congressional Republicans will focus too little on this. Democrats are overwhelmingly likely to express greater concern about too much of a focus on investigations (89%) versus too little (9%).

After Democrats won a majority in the House midway through President Donald Trump’s term in office, Democrats were more closely divided in their concerns. In May 2019, 51% of Democrats and Democratic leaners expressed more concern that House Democrats would focus too much on investigating the Trump administration, while 47% were more concerned about Democrats not focusing on this enough.

The new survey – conducted Jan. 18-24, 2023, among 5,152 members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel – finds that most Americans continue to rate Biden’s job performance negatively: 60% of the public disapproves of the way he is handling his job as president, while 38% approve. Views of Biden’s job performance are largely unchanged across Center surveys dating back to last July. (For a more detailed look at Biden’s approval among various demographic groups, see the detailed tables accompanying this report)

Chart shows public concern over prices for food and other consumer goods remains high; concerns over energy prices decline

Views of the nation’s economy also remain overwhelmingly negative. Nearly eight-in-ten adults (78%) rate current conditions as poor (32%) or only fair (47%). The share rating conditions positively has ticked up slightly since October – to 21% from 17% – but remains lower than it was one year ago (28%).

Even as inflation appears to have leveled off since last summer, large shares of the public continue to report concerns about prices. Three-quarters of adults say they are very concerned about the price of food and consumer goods, nearly identical to the share who said this in the October survey.

Six-in-ten now say they are very concerned about the price of gasoline and energy, down from 69% three months ago. And an identical share expresses the same level of concern about the cost of housing, unchanged since the fall.

Americans are far less likely to say they are worried about issues related to jobs than about prices. Three-in-ten are very concerned about employers being unable to find workers to hire (down slightly from 34%) and about people who want to work being unable to find jobs (compared with 29% in October).

Other important findings from the survey

Chart shows Democrats are more likely than Republicans to see their party as united, a shift from a year ago

Larger shares of Democrats view their party as united. Eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners say that the Democratic Party is mostly (71%) or completely (9%) united, compared with 70% of Republicans and Republican leaners who say the GOP is united (67% mostly, 4% completely). The share of Democrats who describe their party as united is up 12 percentage points from January 2022, while the share of Republicans who describe the GOP as united is down 7 points over the same period.

Favorable views of Kevin McCarthy are up among Republicans. Kevin McCarthy is better known – and better liked – among Republicans since becoming speaker of the House. Nearly half of Republicans – 47% – now view him favorably, up from 34% last summer; 26% express an unfavorable view of McCarthy.

Democrats are more optimistic than Republicans about the coming year. Roughly seven-in-ten Democrats (71%) say they expect 2023 to be better than 2022, compared with 43% of Republicans; a majority of Republicans (57%) say that 2023 will be worse. These shares are nearly identical to the shares of Republicans (46%) and Democrats (71%) who, one year ago, expected 2022 to be better than 2021. Overall, 57% of adults say 2023 will be better than 2022, while 43% say they expect it to be worse.