More Pa. voters trust Trump over President Biden with the economy

Even as key economic indicators in the U.S. trend up, Pennsylvania voters expressed a lack of faith in the economy and said they would trust former President Donald Trump with the issue more than President Joe Biden.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer/New York Times/Siena College poll, 54% of Pennsylvanians trust Trump to handle the economy better compared with just 42% who prefer Biden on the issue.

Respondents in Philadelphia’s voter-heavy suburbs were nearly split on which candidate would better handle the economy: 48% said Biden would better manage the economy, while 47% had a preference for Trump.

An overwhelming 78% of respondents statewide rated the U.S. economy as fair or poor, a belief that cut across nearly every demographic group and region.

Voters often pointed to the cost of groceries and gas, which are significantly higher than they were when Biden took office. Though the rate of inflation has slowed, the cost of goods remains high.

Harry Miller, a 67-year-old from Pittston, Luzerne County, who plans to vote for Trump, described cuts he’d made to personal travel and concerns about saving for his grandkids because of the rising cost of food and gas. He also said he trusted Trump more than Biden because of unease over Biden’s effort to shift the auto industry to electric vehicles and the rising cost of farm products.

“The impact of Trump’s control of the economy was clearly more positive — it’s indisputable. I am a truth and a fact man,” he said.

Economic indicators, however, are broadly good. The U.S. unemployment rate was low at 3.9% in April and the inflation rate had dropped to just 3.5% in March. Inflation spiked early in Biden’s presidency, reaching 9% in June of 2022.

Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economics LLC, an economic consulting firm in Bucks County, said the economy is doing well by most macroeconomic measures, including job and wage growth. The economy under Biden, he said, is as good if not better than it was under Trump. But the price of goods, he said, remains a problem for many people.

“To some extent, people are reacting rationally by looking strictly at their budgets, which is what my belief is,” Naroff said.

“If you asked a macroeconomist, which I am one, what’s the state of the U.S. economy they’ll tell you what you hear said all over the place, that as an industrialized growing economy it’s stronger than any other one.”

But the persisting frustration with the economy will likely harm Biden and help Trump as voters head to the polls. More than any other issue, Pennsylvania voters said the economy was the most important factor in determining whom they would vote for with 22% of respondents picking that issue.

During Biden’s three-day swing through Pennsylvania last month, he placed a focus on the economy, telling a crowd in Scranton that he didn’t see the economy “through the eyes of Mar-a-Lago” but rather through Scranton. Biden has called for higher taxes on the rich and has often focused his economic message on bolstering the middle class.

Trump, who successfully pushed for major tax cuts as president in 2017, has called for further cuts, including for the nation’s top earners. He has sought to frame his presidency as a time of economic prosperity that the nation could return to if they put him back in office.

Ruthann Fisher, a 67-year-old retired Biden voter from Dresher, said she had concerns about the cost of living but felt the economy was broadly doing well enough.

“I’m concerned if Trump were to be elected, the focus on continuing to provide tax incentives for the very rich and and continuing to really eliminate — I think that the Republicans are focused on eliminating the middle class,” she said.

Shivani Gonzalez and Camille Baker of the New York Times contributed to this article.

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