Trump would be first president to lose reelection bid despite high ratings on economy

Trump continuously leads Biden on question about who would better lead US economy

If President Trump fails to win reelection, he would become the first incumbent president in modern history to lose despite high ratings from voters on the U.S. economy.

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It's an issue on which Trump has maintained favorable marks even amid the coronavirus-induced recession: According to an Economist/YouGov poll between Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 40% of voters strongly approve of the way Trump is handling the economy and jobs, and 11% of voters said they somewhat approve — the highest marks that the president received on any of the biggest issues.

The poll shows that only 42% of voters believe the economy would improve under a Biden presidency, while 45% said it would get better if Trump were re-elected.

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Historically, the economy tops a list of issues that voters consider important during elections. Ahead of the 2018 midterms, for instance, 78 percent of registered voters said they considered the economy to be extremely important, according to Gallup. It was second behind health care.

Previous incumbents who lost re-election bids typically weren't viewed favorably on their economic performance.

President George H. W. Bush faced recession-related challenges in his 1992 re-election bid due to a downturn in July 1990 that lasted for eight months, even though it occurred well before the general election race against Democratic challenger, then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

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Clinton's campaign strategist, James Carville, famously coined the phrase, "It's the economy, stupid" in 1992, a slogan that later became a rallying cry for the Clinton campaign.

The July before the election, Bush's job approval rating, which was closely correlated to his standing on the economy, sank to 29%, the lowest point of his presidency.

The economy also helps to explain Gerald Ford's loss to Jimmy Carter in 1976, Jimmy Carter's loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Barack Obama's victory over John McCain in 2008.

In 1980, the economy tumbled into a deep recession, dragging down Carter's approval rating to 21%, according to a Harvard report on the 1980 election. And before his re-election battle in 1976, Ford's approval rating was just 45% -- a result of a prolonged economic downturn and his pardoning of Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

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In 2008, the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, which helped usher in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, played a pivotal role in the presidential election between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.

According to the Pew Research Center, an essentially deadlocked race between the two candidates prior to the Lehman meltdown in mid-September transformed into a solid lead for Obama in the weeks that followed. George W. Bush, the president at that time, was a Republican.

Public opinion polls from the period found that within a week of the bankruptcy, 30 percent of individuals surveyed said they had a less favorable opinion of McCain, whereas only 20 percent said their view had become more favorable.

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