Trafalgar poll: Biden's "Putin's tax" spin on inflation is a flop

Trafalgar poll: Biden's "Putin's tax" spin on inflation is a flop
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Even the Biden White House seems to have figured this out, but far too late to matter. Joe Biden has tried to blame Vladimir Putin for rising gas prices and inflation ever since the invasion of Ukraine, but most Americans had already been feeling the impact of both long before Putin staged troops on the border for the invasion.

According to a new poll from Trafalgar, the number of Americans buying the “Putin’s tax” dodge is even lower than Biden’s job approval rating. So far, anyway:

It’s worth noting that this isn’t all that much different than Biden’s polling on the economy. RCP’s aggregate for his job approval on that issue currently sits at 25/61. In this poll as well, six in ten Americans blame Biden’s policies and spending rather than Putin for inflation. And well they should, since inflation began ramping up over the 2% target rate in April 2021 and has accelerated ever since:

Even some Biden voters aren’t biting on the “Putin’s tax” dodge. A third of Trafalgar’s Democrat respondents blame Biden rather than Putin, although 55% stick with Biden on this point. Only 27% of independents swallow Biden’s spin, though, while 61% blame Biden’s policies and spending instead.

Some of the other demos are worth perusing, too. Large majorities of both men (65/27) and women (55/36) blame Biden rather than Putin, a result that will likely trouble those hoping that women will stick with Democrats as a result of the Dobbs leak. The Putin’s-tax line flops with every age demo except 25-34, where it ties at 47/47, but it flops worst among 18-24YOs, who blame Biden 73/26. Black voters are more supportive at 37/61, but Hispanics sharply reject the spin and blame Biden 61/32. And even 61% among black voters has to worry Democrats in the midterms, who will need more like 90% adherence and lots of enthusiasm from that voting bloc.

Want to bet that the White House’s polling on this messaging looks similar to Trafalgar’s? Last night’s WaPo report on a new pivot to inflation certainly looks coincidental, at least:

The White House launched a new push Tuesday to contain the political damage caused by inflation after President Biden complained for weeks to aides that his administration was not doing enough to publicly explain the fastest price increases in roughly four decades.

Aiming to demonstrate to the public that it is responding to its concerns, Biden met with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell in the Oval Office, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about inflation and sent top aides across major networks to push the administration’s economic message.

The flurry of activity comes after Biden has privately grumbled to top White House officials over the administration’s handling of inflation, expressing frustration over the past several months that aides were not doing enough to confront the problem directly, two people familiar with the president’s comments said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

Come on, man. This is nothing more than buck-passing by proxy, and the Washington Post should know better. Biden himself has flogged that “Putin’s tax” line repeatedly, and as recently as last month — twice. Just a couple of hours before the Post published this piece last night, Karine Jean-Pierre flogged it at the briefing, tossing in an extra “Putin’s gas hike” to boot. For the last several months, Biden has been dismissive of inflation issues, painting inflation as a sign of growth, and of corporate greed as far back as September 2021. That was when the “transitory” spin became threadbare, readers will recall, although Jen Psaki flogged that line too as late as April of this year.

The man responsible for today’s inflation is the same man who’s responsible for flubbing the response to it, and the same man who keeps trying to pass the buck on it. As Trafalgar demonstrates, Americans know who’s responsible for it.

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