- 32% of Americans are satisfied with direction of the U.S.
- Economic Confidence Index less negative than in recent months
- Congress approval remains relatively high
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. continued to improve in March, as 32% say they are satisfied with the direction of the country. This is the second monthly increase Gallup has recorded after the measure fell to its lowest point in nearly a decade in January. Still, Americans are more than twice as likely to report being dissatisfied with the country's direction (67%).
Line graph. Americans' satisfaction with the direction of the U.S., trend from January 2020 to March 2021. 32% of Americans in March are satisfied with the direction of the U.S., up from 27% in February.
The current level of satisfaction, from a March 1-15 Gallup poll, is the highest Gallup has recorded since May 2020, though Gallup has previously noted that recent increases are largely driven by Democrats and, to a lesser extent, independents. Republicans' level of satisfaction, meanwhile, has decreased significantly since Democratic President Joe Biden took office in January. Currently, 52% of Democrats, 30% of independents and 7% of Republicans are satisfied.
U.S. Economic Confidence Less Negative
The overall increase in satisfaction with the country's direction may partly be related to improved confidence in the U.S. economy. The latest measurement of Gallup's Economic Confidence Index still has overall confidence in negative territory, at -7. But this reading shows continued improvement from February after a dip in confidence at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021. Current assessments of the economy are far better than last April's -33, in the early weeks of the pandemic, but far below pre-pandemic estimates.
Line graph. Gallup's economic confidence index, trend from January 2020 through March 2021. The index currently stands at -7, up from -13 in February.
Gallup regularly tracks Americans' ratings of national economic conditions as excellent, good, only fair or poor, and whether the economy is getting better or getting worse. The combined answers are used to create the Gallup Economic Confidence Index, which has a theoretical range of +100 (if all respondents say the economy is excellent or good and that it is getting better) to -100 (if all say it is poor and getting worse).
Currently, 23% of Americans say the economy is "excellent" or "good," and 31% say it is "poor." Meanwhile, 44% say economic conditions are "getting better" and 50% say they are "getting worse." Improvement in the latter figures -- from 39% better and 54% worse in February -- accounts for most of the increase in the overall index.
In fact, the 44% saying the economy is getting better is the highest for that measure since early March 2020, when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were just beginning to take root.
Congress Approval Remains Relatively High
More than a third of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing (36%), similar to the rating Gallup recorded in February -- which at the time marked the legislative body's highest approval rating in nearly 12 years. As with other measures, the recent increase reflects a surge in Democrats' approval of Congress after having taken control of the U.S. Senate earlier this year.
The latest rating represents a period during which Congress passed the $1.9 trillion relief bill. Ratings of Congress hardly budged after its passage, however, with the overall figure -- as well as individual ratings among party groups -- nearly identical to February ratings. This is in contrast to the increase in congressional job approval that occurred last spring, after passage of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, and the increase in January after passage of a relief package. The 2020 relief laws were passed by large bipartisan majorities, while the 2021 version was passed with only Democratic votes.
Line graph, 2008-2021 trend. Americans' approval of the job Congress is doing. In March 2021, 36% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, little changed from 35% in February.
Currently, 59% of Democrats, 34% of independents and 9% of Republicans approve of Congress' performance.
Americans have received some good news recently -- an acceleration of vaccinations across the country, a relief bill that will provide aid to struggling families and an unemployment rate that continues to tick down from its 2020 heights.
But, as with many other measures Gallup tracks, much of the recent increases is a function of partisanship -- with Democrats' recent optimism fueling the increases after having taken control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
It is possible that satisfaction with the country's direction will extend beyond party lines if the government continues to make headway in combating the spread of COVID-19 and the U.S. economy continues to show signs of meaningful recovery. But it is also possible that Republicans will remain dissatisfied while Democrats' recent boost of enthusiasm wears off as the year progresses.
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