For the first time during President Joe Biden’s term, a majority of Americans are pessimistic about the nation’s direction over the next year as the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases fuels uncertainty over the economic recovery—marking a stark change from decades-high optimism earlier this year, according to a new poll released Sunday.
About 55% of the more than 500 American adults polled by Ipsos on Friday and Saturday said they are pessimistic about the direction of the country, nearly 20 points higher than the 36% of pessimistic Americans in late April, when the question was last posed, though still far from a record high 77% in 2013.
According to the findings, the rising pessimism is happening across all age groups, income levels and political associations, with optimism among Democrats and Independents, for example, falling from 89% to 71% and 64% to 38%, respectively.
Reflecting growing concerns over Covid-19, the percentage of Americans approving of Biden’s response to the pandemic fell to a low of 63%, 9 percentage points lower than his marks in late March.
The results varied highly by political affiliation, with only 30% of Republicans saying they approve of Biden’s response to Covid-19, while 93% of Democrats said they did.
In addition to Biden’s waning marks on the pandemic, the president is still garnering low approval ratings for his handling of crime (39%), immigration (37%) and gun violence (37%).
Fresh off Biden’s first 100 days in office, American optimism about the next year hit 64% at the end of April—a level unseen in Ipsos’ weekly polling for nearly 15 years. New Covid-19 cases at the time had just plummeted to a six-month low as widespread vaccination efforts picked up steam across the nation, but the rapid spread of the virus’ Delta variant has threatened to curtail progress in recent weeks. Though they climbed 35 percentage points from January to April as vaccines became widely available, vaccination rates have ticked up only 13 percentage points higher over the last three months, and infections in states like Florida have nearly doubled in just two weeks’ time. Case counts across the United States are now growing at their fastest pace in nearly three months.
Growing pessimism has also rocked the market this month, with stocks having their worst day in nearly six months on Monday as the Delta variant became the dominant Covid-19 strain in the United States. Though stocks ended Friday at record highs, volatility this week hit a two-month high. “The global economy is barely surviving on life support, and another wave of infections may spur lockdowns that could signal the death knell for the tenuous recovery,” Peter Essele, head of investment management at the Commonwealth Financial Network, said in an email this week, echoing a word of caution from Biden that same day. “Our economy has come a long way over the past six months. We can’t slow down now,” the president told reporters Monday.