The question pollsters keep asking about whether the country is heading in the right direction or on the wrong track has yielded mostly depressing numbers for most of this century, but this spring the “right direction” number reached its highest point in years. In several polls, pluralities or even majorities agreed that we were on the right track. In January, in the days immediately preceding Joe Biden’s inauguration, we saw horrible numbers of COVID casualties and there was widespread revulsion about the Capitol riot on January 6, so it isn’t surprising that the right-track number hit as low as 11 percent in one survey. The RealClearPolitics average of polls yielded a low of 22 percent for the right-track number on January 16, which is lower than the lowest point that figure reached even during last year’s summer of COVID and riots.
This spring, in early May, the right-track figure reached its highest mark (43.3 on average) since the early days of the Obama presidency in mid 2009. In several polls, as many as 53 percent of Americans agreed that we were finally on the right track again. That bounce has already faded, though, even as the COVID threat has nearly died out and we have entered a post-pandemic summer, suggesting that people aren’t even thinking about the virus when asked whether we’re on the right track.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll taken from June 11 to 13 puts the right-track number at a strong 47 percent, but that survey appears to be an outlier. The other recent polls put the right-track figure at 39, 38, 37, 35, and 37 percent. On average, the right-track/wrong-direction question is now underwater by 12 percent. As John Fund noted, Biden’s poll numbers are sagging a bit also. The new president’s popularity may already have peaked. Certainly Obama never saw anything close to a plurality thinking the country was on the right track for the rest of his presidency after early June of 2009, although he experienced a brief surge of support in the weeks surrounding his reelection.