FEW WORDS in American politics are as overused as those uttered by Gerald Ford at his presidential swearing-in ceremony in 1974. “My fellow Americans,” he said, “our long national nightmare is over.” Even so, President Joe Biden has good cause to use them. Although it could be months until lockdowns are completely lifted, schools and restaurants are being reopened as additional jabs are administered, and the country is beginning to blink and stir itself awake. New polling data suggest that confidence in the economy may be back to normal.
A poll released on May 5th by YouGov in partnership with The Economist shows that, for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, Americans are split on whether the economy is on the rise or in decline. The survey, conducted between May 1st and May 4th, asked 1,500 American adults, “Overall, do you think the economy is getting better or worse?” Roughly 30% said the economy was on the upswing, 30% said it was trending downwards and 28% said it was about the same. All are within each other’s margin of error.
Americans’ views of the overall state of the country are also improving. A YouGov poll at the start of the year found that just 20% of Americans said the country was “generally headed in the right direction” against 64% who said it was “off on the wrong track”. But in this week’s survey, 41% said America was on the right track (a 21-percentage-point increase) and 45% said it was going the wrong way (a 19-point decrease).
Such improvements in the national mood come as the government pumps hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy. Mr Biden has proposed infrastructure and paid family leave plans that would mean spending trillions more over the next decade. By then, with luck, day-to-day life will have returned to normal, and covid-19 will be only a distant memory—at least for those who survived it.
For more from insights from The Economist/YouGov survey, visit our interactive poll that tracks what America thinks