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By Chris Kahn
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden has seen an erosion in support since April, mainly from fellow Democrats, as his administration wrestles with Congress to make good on campaign promises and more Americans worry about an uneven economic recovery, Reuters/Ipsos polling shows.
A June 11-17 national opinion poll shows Biden is still more popular than his Republican predecessor Donald Trump ever was: 55% of adults approve of Biden's performance in office and 65% like his response to the coronavirus pandemic. At this point four years ago, about 36% of adults approved of Trump's job performance.
However, a growing number of Americans disapprove of Biden's leadership on the economy, gun violence and taxation, with the biggest decline coming within Biden's Democratic Party https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-BIDEN/POLL/yxmvjzlmkvr, especially those under the age of 40, non-white Democrats or those who do not have a college degree.
The economy has replaced healthcare and disease as a top concern, with nearly a quarter of adults who were polled calling it the most important problem. A majority of Americans are worried about rising living costs, and the public is almost evenly split over how much the government should do to make things better, according to the poll.
Forty-eight percent of respondents said they approved of Biden’s handling of the economy, which is down 4 points from a similar survey that ran in April. The number of Americans who disapproved of Biden’s economic record rose 4 points to 43%.
Democratic pollster Ryan Pougiales said a lot of people still feel like they are far from back to normal.
"There’s a huge impatience" with the economy, Pougiales said. "Everyone’s been bottled up in their homes. Many have lost their jobs or lost loved ones."
Just 35% of the country thinks the U.S. economy is headed in the right direction, and 44% say they are "very concerned" that prices will keep rising, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Among Democrats, 78% said they approved of Biden's economic agenda, down 7 points from April, while the number of Democrats who disapproved of his economic plan rose 6 points to 15%. That includes an 11-point drop in approval among Democrats under 40 years old, an 8-point drop in approval among minority Democrats and Democrats without a college degree.
Despite an expected 7% growth in the economy this year, government statistics show the post-pandemic jobs recovery has been lagging most among racial and ethnic minorities and those without a college education.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment within the Black community was 9.1% as of May, for example, compared to 5.1% for whites. Unemployment for college degree holders was 3.2% in May, less than half the 6.8% unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma.
The challenge for Biden will be to find workable solutions while keeping his party together, including many Democrats who initially favored more liberal candidates like U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, as well as racial minorities and people with less higher education.
"He's in a delicate position with respect to the economy," said Donald Green, a political scientist at Columbia University. "His coalition ranges from people in high tech sectors to suburban swing voters to more traditional Democrats. They all want different things from the economy."
Meanwhile, the number of Americans who approved of Biden’s stance on gun violence dropped 8 points overall and 11 points among Democrats from April to June.
The eroding support for Biden coincides with Democrats struggling to pass major parts of his agenda in Congress. They failed this month to generate enough support for federal voting rights legislation, and the future of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan is still in flux after months of negotiations with Republicans.
Biden also faces growing impatience from gun safety activists who want the president to make good on a series of campaign promises to stem an "epidemic" of gun violence. He pledged this month to go after illegal gun dealers and boost federal funding and support for local law enforcement as homicide rates have spiked in large cities.
Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said many Americans remain fixated on the coronavirus, an area where Biden remains strong. As the pandemic recedes, the economy will continue to recover, and that would be a win for Biden, Kamarck said.
"Right now, the dynamic is: you handle the virus, and you handle the economy," she said.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn in New York; Additional reporting by Howard Schneider in Washington; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Grant McCool)
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