The Price is Wrong: How Biden Can Get Inflation Right

“When married to messaging that touts Biden as a champion of the middle class against Trump as a patsy for the wealthy and big companies,” continued Smith, “there is a clear policy and communications path for Biden to be even bolder on inflation, while winning over skeptical votes.”

June 26, 2024

Blueprint today released a new poll that details voter perceptions of inflation and how they want to see it reduced, as well as which messages work best for President Biden and against Donald Trump on the issue. 

The poll finds that inflation remains a top issue in this election and voters’ chief economic concern. Lower prices on goods and services is far and away voters’ top priority right now, handily beating out higher wages, lower interest rates, and more employment. 

When asked what they think is most important to addressing inflation, voters say reducing prices on essentials, such as groceries and housing, and ensuring that people are able to keep up with higher costs. Voters’ trust in Biden to handle these issues is more or less tied with their trust in Trump to do so, though Biden receives higher marks on inflation- and price-reducing measures related to lowering healthcare costs and taking on corporations. The survey also indicates that, among most low-propensity and many persuadable voters, Biden’s handling of inflation and prices is an electoral vulnerability. 

Voters see government spending and corporate greed as the top contributors to inflation and, accordingly, want to see the government cut spending and crack down on price gouging; they also believe the government should lower interest rates and taxes to reduce inflation. 

Specific policies most seen as decreasing inflation include actions aimed at lowering food and healthcare costs, reducing the deficit, protecting consumers from corporate greed, and increasing domestic energy production. Similarly, on price reduction, voters’ most preferred policies are focused on bringing down the costs of essentials, including groceries and electricity, cracking down on price gouging by corporations and overcharging by hospitals, and cutting spending to reduce the deficit.

Finally, the poll finds that the most effective messages for Biden to use on inflation are centered on his record of reducing healthcare costs and taking on corporations, particularly Big Pharma, and reducing the deficit, as well as efforts to bring down food prices and other burdens on consumers. In attacking Trump on inflation, the messages that work best are those that paint him as serving the interests of the rich and corporations at the expense of the middle class.

“Voters remain extremely concerned about inflation, and it is the primary driver of both general economic anxiety as well as skepticism of Biden’s economic agenda,” said Blueprint lead pollster Evan Roth Smith. “Voter trust on handling key aspects of inflation is largely split between Trump and Biden, but Biden initiatives around food prices, deficit reduction, Medicare drug price negotiation, and junk fees are incredibly popular. Dramatic actions—including cracking down on overcharging by hospitals, prosecuting price gougers, and various price capping or cutting interventions—are immensely popular, indicating a large appetite for even more aggressive anti-inflationary measures.”

“When married to messaging that touts Biden as a champion of the middle class against Trump as a patsy for the wealthy and big companies,” continued Smith, “there is a clear policy and communications path for Biden to be even bolder on inflation, while winning over skeptical votes.”

KEY FINDINGS AND TAKEAWAYS

  • Voters are highly focused on inflation and prices. They’re closely divided on whether they trust Biden or Trump more to address various aspects of inflation, and they want to hear Biden discuss it more. He should seize every opportunity to tout his accomplishments and efforts on inflation, and particularly prices, in order to define himself as the candidate who will tackle this all-important concern. 
  • Among voters who don’t currently plan to vote for Biden, his handling of inflation and prices is the second-biggest concern about him (closely following his handling of immigration and the border), while issues such as his age and his handling of Israel and Palestine are cited much less. Hammering home his efforts to reduce prices and inflation can help Biden gain trust among voters he needs to win—and is also an issue where he’s prepared to make one of his strongest arguments, uniting his coalition and appealing to persuadable voters. 
  • Almost equal shares of voters see government spending and corporate greed as the biggest contributors to inflation, and corporate greed edges out government spending among groups that are key to winning in November. Given how compelling voters find the “greedflation” narrative, Biden should highlight his efforts to go after big corporations, prosecute price gougers, eliminate junk fees, and attack Trump for serving corporate interests over those of ordinary Americans. 
  • The policies voters most see as effective at reducing inflation are Biden policies such as: investing in agricultural supply chains, reducing the deficit, allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, and cracking down on price gouging and junk fees. Biden should emphasize and take credit for these actions when discussing inflation. 

Inflation—More Specifically, Prices—Is a Top Issue

In response to the question “What defines a good economy for you right now?” (with the opportunity to select up to two options), 79% of voters (including 66% of Democrats, 81% of independents, and 91% of Republicans) say low prices on food, gas, and other goods and services.


That answer is dramatically more popular than the second-most-selected option, high wages (33% overall, including 44% of Democrats, 34% of independents, and 22% of Republicans). 26% of voters (17% of Democrats, 12% of independents, and 43% of Republicans) say low interest rates. 25% say low unemployment; Democrats are more focused than average on low unemployment (38%), but it doesn’t resonate with independents (19%), Republicans (17%), or 2020 non-voters (those who in 2020 either didn’t vote or voted for someone other than Biden or Trump), who choose it at just 18%. 

When asked which issues they would be most interested in hearing Biden discuss (with the option to choose up to two), the most-selected answer is inflation and prices: 50% of voters choose it, including 52% of Democrats, 54% of independents, and 46% of Republicans. Non-college-educated voters select it more than average (at 55%), and, at 47%, it is the most frequently selected answer among 2020 non-voters (those who in 2020 either didn’t vote or voted for someone other than Biden or Trump); Black voters are especially likely to select it (75%). 

Inflation and prices is followed immigration and the border (33% overall, including 20% of Democrats, 27% of independents, and 50% of Republicans), abortion (22% overall, including 39% of Democrats, 27% of independents, and 3% of Republicans), Israel and Palestine (15% overall, including 24% of Democrats, 14% of independents, and 7% of Republicans), and jobs (11% overall, including 13% of Democrats, 22% of independents, and 4% of Republicans). 

Inflation and Prices Are a Top Concern About Biden

When respondents who don’t plan to vote for Biden are asked to choose up to two reasons that most closely describe why they don’t support him, the most frequent answers are his policies on immigration and the border (60% overall, 37% of Democrats, and 56% of independents) and his handling of inflation and prices (53% overall, 43% of Democrats, and 38% of independents); 2020 non-voters are more likely to cite inflation and prices (52%) than immigration and the border (45%).

Compared to inflation and prices and immigration and the border, Biden’s age is cited much less frequently (24% overall, 30% of Democrats, 34% of independents, and 22% of 2020 non-voters), as is his handling of Israel and Palestine (21% overall, 57% of Democrats, 27% of independents, and 36% of 2020 non-voters) and his handling of economic growth and jobs (11% overall, 13% of Democrats, 17% of independents, and 19% of 2020 non-voters). Notably, as with all voters, voters who don’t plan to vote for Biden are significantly more concerned about inflation and prices than they are about jobs, echoing previous polling that demonstrates that when it comes to Biden closing the gap, messaging focused on reducing prices is likely to move the needle more than jobs-focused economic messaging.

What Voters See as Most Important to Addressing Inflation—and Whether They Trust Biden or Trump More to Handle It

The issues most frequently seen as “most important” to addressing inflation are bringing down grocery prices (55% of voters overall, including 41% of Democrats, 50% of independents, 71% of Republicans), bringing down prices on goods and services in general (49% overall, including 45% of Democrats, 30% independents, and 64% of Republicans), ensuring workers make enough to cover increased cost of living (43% overall, including 49% of Democrats, 43% of independents, and 38% of Republicans), bringing down rents and the cost of housing (41% overall, including 42% of Republicans, 35% of independents, and 44% of Republicans), and ensuring retiree benefits keep up with inflation (40% overall, including 37% of Democrats, 37% of independents, and 45% of Republicans).

Below is a breakdown of what specific demographic groups see as most important to addressing inflation.

When asked whether they trust Biden or Trump more to address this same list of inflation concerns, overall responses are roughly evenly divided, though Biden has an advantage on lowering Medicare costs for seniors (53%), bringing down drug prices (53%), making hidden fees and unfair charges illegal (52%), ensuring companies don’t take advantage of customers (52%), ensuring retiree benefits keep up with inflation (52%), reducing the deficit (52%), lowering interest rates (51%), and lowering the cost of buying a car (51% overall). 

Voter trust in Biden and Trump is tied 50/50 on four of the five priorities voters most frequently say are “most important”: bringing down grocery prices, bringing down prices on goods and services in general, ensuring workers make enough to cover increased cost of living, and bringing down rents and the cost of housing.

Though Democrats and Republicans largely trust the candidates in accordance with their partisan affiliation, independents trust Biden more on all inflation priorities. Meanwhile, 2020 non-voters trust Trump more on the majority of them, including four of the five they say are most important to addressing inflation: bringing down rents and the cost of housing (60% Trump), bringing down prices on goods and services in general (62% Trump), bringing down grocery prices (57% Trump), and ensuring retiree benefits keep up with inflation (52% Trump).

Below is a breakdown, by demographic group, of voter trust in Biden to address the issues they respectively identify as most important to addressing inflation. 

What Voters Believe Drives and Reduces Inflation

When asked what they think contributes most to inflation (with the option to select up to two answers), voters most frequently say government spending (47% overall, including 18% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans), followed closely by corporate greed (44% overall, including 68% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans). But among independents, corporate greed (48%) is cited more frequently than government spending (45%); this is also true among younger voters (aged 18-44), with 50% choosing corporate greed and 44% choosing government spending.

22% say interest rates (22% of Democrats, 24% of independents, and 21% of Republicans), 19% say government regulation (4% of Democrats, 14% of independents, and 37% of Republicans), 17% say changes to supply chains (24% of Democrats, 17% of independents, 11% of Republicans), 16% say global conflicts (23% of Democrats, 18% of Republicans, and 9% of Democrats, and 11% say taxes (11% of Democrats, 10% of independents, 12% of Republicans), with the other answers coming in at less than 10%.

We presented voters with a range of specific policies and actions either proposed or implemented by Democrats or Republicans and asked which they thought would increase, decrease, or not affect inflation. Consistent with previous polling, voters are most likely to see investing in agricultural supply chains, reducing the deficit, allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, and cracking down on price gouging and junk fees—all of which have happened under the Biden administration—as effective at reducing inflation. Additionally, voters believe that increased domestic oil and gas production will reduce inflation.

On the other hand, voters see a number of Biden administration policies and proposals as increasing inflation, including increasing the minimum wage for au pairs, increasing tariffs on steel, and canceling student debt.

Voters don’t see immigration as decreasing inflation. They do view government spending, even on infrastructure, as inflationary and believe that tariffs similarly increase inflation.

How Voters Want to See Inflation and Prices Reduced

We asked voters which policies the government should undertake to reduce inflation, allowing them to select up to four. The policies that 20% or more respondents selected are: prosecuting companies for price gouging and price fixing (39%), reducing government spending (38%), lowering interest rates (35%), lowering taxes (34%), increasing energy production of all types (22%), reducing government regulation (20%), and making housing less expensive by building more public housing (20%).

Those selected by fewer than 5% of respondents are raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare (3%), increasing taxes (3%), increasing legal immigration (3%), increasing government spending (2%), raising interest rates (2%), and reducing Social Security benefits (1%). 

We presented voters with highly visible policies and actions that could be taken to reduce prices. We structured the question in two ways (using the same list of policies for both). First, we showed respondents pairs of policies and asked them which they preferred, allowing us to see which policies are most prioritized (a method known as a MaxDiff test). Second, we asked respondents to say whether they thought each policy would actually reduce prices or if they see it as a stunt. 

The most popular policies are calling on all states to suspend taxes on groceries (68% selected), cracking down on overcharging by hospitals (66%), starting a congressional committee to hold hearings on and investigate price gouging and overcharging by corporations (63%), requiring public utilities to cut rates for electricity (63%), reducing the deficit by cutting spending (62%), and prosecuting price gougers (61%). The least popular policies are reducing all tariffs that do not have a national security purpose (37% selected), drawing from the strategic petroleum reserve to lower gas prices (35%), firing Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell (33%), reducing tariffs on imported goods (31%), making it as easy to cancel a membership or subscription as it is to start one (30%), and ending the Jones Act (a regulation on shipping that requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be transported on ships that are built, owned, and operated by U.S. citizens or permanent residents) (28%). 

We then combined the “stunt” measure with the MaxDiff to find the policies that were most likely to be supported and not seen as a stunt. Those policies are cracking down on overcharging by hospitals, requiring public utilities to cut rates for electricity, reducing the deficit by cutting spending, preventing car insurance companies from raising premiums, prosecuting price gougers, calling on all states to suspend taxes on groceries, creating government-set caps on prices for essential goods and services, and requiring airlines, hotels, and ticket companies to display the all-in price of goods and services up front. 

The policies that tested the worst on this measure (either through low support, high rate of being viewed as a stunt, or a combination of the two) are having the Federal Trade Commission investigate companies to see if they are reducing the sizes of products, creating an “Inflation Response Task Force” that would review any new regulations to ensure they would not be inflationary, requiring any new tariff with a national security purpose to be replaced with a tariff reduction, declaring inflation a national emergency, holding weekly updates on the inflation crisis and what he has done that week to reduce prices, ending the Jones Act, and firing Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. 

Inflation Messages That Work for Biden and Against Trump

Again using a MaxDiff test, we showed voters messages about inflation based on quotes from Biden and ideas from leading Democratic strategists and asked which they found more persuasive. The most popular messages include themes of taking on corporations (particularly Big Pharma), bringing down the cost of healthcare, lowering the prices of food and consumer products, and deficit reduction. The five messages that tested best are below.

  • “Unlike the last president, in my first two years in office, we actually cut the federal deficit by $1.7 trillion. You hear me? The first two years—we cut the deficit by $1.7 trillion. And through this law, we’re going to continue cutting the deficit and cutting subsidies to Big Pharma and ensuring the wealthy and big corporations begin to pay their fair share of federal taxes. That deficit reduction is going to lower prices and bring down inflation.” (Selected 70% of the time.)
  • “Far too many American families are struggling to pay for healthcare, and falling deeper into debt, focused on bills when they should be focused on healing. With the Inflation Reduction Act, we’re taking life-saving steps to reduce healthcare costs. The IRA locks in place the lower healthcare premiums for millions of American families under the Affordable Care Act, saving them an average of $800 a year.” (Selected 62% of the time.)
  • “Every time I go to the grocery store, I see the unacceptable rise in prices, and I feel the pain of families that are struggling to put food on the table. It’s unacceptable and it’s un-American. That’s why my top priority is bringing inflation down. I’m investing in American agriculture supply chains and prosecuting companies for price gouging.” (Selected 61% of the time.)
  • “We’re tackling inflation by coming after Big Pharma. We’re requiring Medicare to negotiate the price of essential drugs. These are drugs that 50% of people use themselves or have a family member who uses them. Not only do you get the overall cost of average people and the monthly bills down, in addition to inflation, the Inflation Reduction Act is giving people more breathing room, as my dad would say.” (Selected 58% of the time.)
  • “When the pandemic shut down the chips factories overseas, prices of everything went up at—here at home. That semiconductor shortage drove one third of the surge in inflation in 2021, causing long wait lines for all kinds of products. That’s why I signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act. It will bring semiconductor manufacturing here to America and reduce our dependence on hostile foreign powers in our supply chains.” (Selected 57% of the time.)

In a separate MaxDiff test, we showed voters messages attacking Trump on the issue of inflation and asked which they found more persuasive. In past polling, we’ve found that the most effective attacks against Trump are those that paint him as serving the interests of corporations and the rich at the expense of the middle class. This test shows that these themes hold when it comes to inflation specifically. The five messages that tested best are below. 

  • “Donald Trump would let companies raise prices and hurt the middle class. He would do nothing to rein in corporate greed driving up prices.” (Selected 66% of the time.)
  • “Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare would make it harder for seniors to make ends meet.” (Selected 58% of the time.)
  • “Donald Trump would cut taxes on the wealthy and expand the deficit, which will drive up prices for middle-class families.” (Selected 56% of the time.)
  • “Donald Trump’s top priority is a massive tax cut for the wealthy paid for by the middle class.” (Selected 56% of the time.)
  • “Donald Trump would significantly raise tariffs—another word for a tax—on imported goods, leading to higher prices for American consumers.” (Selected 52% of the time.)

ABOUT THE POLL

Blueprint surveyed an online sample of 1,006 voters from June 1 to June 2.  The survey was conducted in English, and its margin of error is ±7.1 percentage points. Full toplines and crosstabs can be found here.

INDEX – FULL MAXDIFF RESULTS

Inflation Biden Sound Bite MaxDiff: Below are pairs of quotes from Joe Biden about reducing inflation. For each pair, select which argument you find more persuasive.

Inflation Trump Attack MaxDiff: Below are pairs of arguments for why Donald Trump would not be effective at reducing inflation. For each pair, select which argument you find more persuasive.

PRESS CONTACTS

Alyssa Cass
alyssa@slingshotstrat.com
347-992-5006

Evan Roth Smith
evan@slingshotstrat.com
646-240-0096

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