By Steve Liesman | CNBC.com
American optimism on the economy is reaching new heights and President Donald Trump‘s approval ratings look to be benefiting, at least somewhat.
The CNBC All-American Economic Survey found that for the first time in at least 11 years, more than half of respondents to the survey rated the economy as good or excellent, while a near record 41 percent expected the economy to improve in the next year.
“We’re not measuring a marginal change in the economy, we’re measuring a different economy,” said Public Opinion Strategies’ Micah Roberts, the Republican pollster for the survey. The poll of 800 adults across the nation, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, was conducted Dec. 10-13 by that firm and Democratic pollster Hart Research.
The survey found that 42 percent of Americans expect their wages to rise in the next year, and 41 percent of homeowners see their home values going up, the highest level recorded since 2007. In 2011, while the country remained in an economic funk from the financial crisis, just 15 percent of homeowners thought their home prices would rise.
“2017 is the year that Americans finally put the recession behind them in terms of their attitudes about the economy, and it took a change in leadership” to make it happen, said Roberts.
Trump’s approval rating has mostly been disconnected from the better economic data but that could be changing. With gross domestic product rising strongly the past two quarters and the unemployment rate remaining low, Trump’s approval rating has jumped.
Forty-two percent in the poll approve of the job Trump is doing as president, up 4 points from the September survey, while 49 percent disapprove, down 3 points. The president’s net negative rating of minus 7 (approval minus disapproval) is half of what it was in the summer and his best showing since taking office but still weak for such a strong economy.
The president has made the best strides with members of his own party, up 10 points from last quarter to an 83 percent approval rating. White men and women and people in the South and Midwest give the president net positive approval ratings, but he is underwater with every major income and educational demographic in the poll.
“Whether it is due to the Russia investigation, the gangbusters economy, his talk of tax cuts … or some combination of these and other factors, his base is digging in,” said Jay Campbell of Hart research.
The president’s approval numbers are substantially better on the economy. Forty-seven percent approve of his handling of the economy, up 4 points from September, while 43 percent disapprove, up 2 points. For the first time during the Trump presidency, more than half of independents approved of the president’s economic stewardship. The president also improved his standing with women and blue- and white-collar workers.
What could still be hurting the president is his signature tax plan, which is widely unpopular. The GOP tax plan polls poorly across nearly every demographic, with even support from Republicans tepid at best at 56 percent.
Only 26 percent of Americans approve of the plan while 38 percent disapprove. But 36 percent — more than the percentage who support the bill — say they really don’t know enough about it, suggesting some possibility for Republicans to grow support. One place to start would be their own party: 34 percent of Republicans say they don’t know enough to give the plan a thumbs up or down. Every income group shows net disapproval of the bill but also large numbers of “don’t knows.”
Campbell says the confusion stems from the complexity of the tax bill and the frequent amendments. The result: An increasing number of Americans don’t believe they’ll even get a tax cut. In fact, 70 percent of the public believe their taxes in the next couple of years will either stay the same or increase. The 35 percent who believe their taxes will go up represents an 8-point increase from last quarter.
A net 33 percent of Democrats believe their taxes will rise, along with a net 16 percent of independents. By an 11 point margin, Republicans believe their taxes will go down. Still, 20 percent of Republicans believe higher tax bills are in their future and 39 percent believe they will stay the same. So roughly 60 percent of even Republicans don’t believe they are getting a tax cut.