A solid majority of 56 percent of Americans say they are better off now than they were four years ago, a new Gallup survey reveals.
Only 32 percent say they are worse off than four years ago. The number is, as Fox News’s Laura Ingraham noted on Thursday night, “the highest Gallup has ever recorded.”
President Trump responded to the survey in a tweet:
The Gallup Poll has just come out with the incredible finding that 56% of you say that you are better off today, during a pandemic, than you were four years ago (OBiden). Highest number on record! Pretty amazing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2020
Historically speaking, this bodes very well for President Donald Trump as he seeks reelection. Right around previous presidential elections when an incumbent has been seeking reelection dating back to the mid-1980s, never has this number been this high — or even at a majority. For instance, when former President Barack Obama was seeking reelection in early 2012, the number was at 45 percent. It stayed at that level through the election that Obama won until December 2012. Likewise, when former President George W. Bush was seeking reelection in 2004 — in October — the number was at 47 percent. The junior Bush won. When former President George H.W. Bush was seeking reelection in 1992, the number dropped down to 38 percent — and the senior Bush lost. But in 1984, when former President Ronald Reagan was seeking reelection — he won 49 states in a landslide defeat of his Democrat opponent — the number was down at just 44 percent.
It is unclear what the number was during former President Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign in 1996 in the immediate lead-up to the election as Gallup’s chart does not include that year, but earlier in 1996, less than a year before the election in January, the number was reported at 50 percent.
While the 56 percent number is impressive indeed — again the highest ever recorded this close to an election — it was even higher before the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States. In February, a whopping 61 percent said they believed they were better off than three years earlier when Trump took office in January 2017. As such, while the number slid a little bit — five points — during the coronavirus pandemic the past six months, the number of Americans who consider their lives better with Trump as president remains at record levels even with all the disruption this year.
All this means, also, that the vast majority of Americans think their lives are better off — literally during, again, a pandemic that has upended American life — than it was when Obama was president and Trump’s opponent this year former Vice President Joe Biden was Obama’s second-in-command. Even with the disruption from the pandemic, in other words, it is hard to see those people who like life more now under Trump than they did when Biden was in charge voting for a change. And it would amount to a serious historical aberration for Trump to lose, given the trends in Gallup polling on this question since Reagan asked it of the public in 1984.
In other words, the only incumbent president who has lost reelection when seeking a second term since this question was first asked — the elder Bush — saw the number nearly 20 percent less than where it is now for Trump. And this year has an extra interesting dynamic in that the challenging party’s candidate was the number two in the previous administration, which consistently had a much worse rating on this question than where it is now under Trump.
% of Americans who say they are better off now than they were 4 years ago
Sept 2020: 56 percent
Dec 2012: 45 percent
Oct 2004: 47 percent
Oct 1992: 38 percent
— Rob Henderson (@robkhenderson) October 8, 2020
The question represents an interesting gauge of support for an incumbent president facing reelection as it asks, generally speaking, if the respondent believes their life has improved during the first term of the president asking voters for a second term.
“During his presidential campaign in 1980, Ronald Reagan asked Americans, ‘Are you better off today than you were four years ago?’” Gallup’s RJ Reinhart wrote. “Since then, this question has served as a key standard that sitting presidents running for reelection have been held to.”