Politics & Policy

New Poll: One Piece of Bad News for Biden after Another

President Joe Biden speaks prior to signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law as Vice President Kamala Harris stands by in the East Room of the White House, June 17, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
A new survey is loaded with grisly news of American pessimism and all sorts of hurt for the president and his party.

The latest YouGov national tracking poll — covering 1,500 adults, conducted over the past three days — is full of fascinating tidbits. The poll is loaded with grisly news of American pessimism and all sorts of hurt for Joe Biden and his party.

First, optimism for the country as a whole is running low:

  • By 59 percent–25 percent, respondents say that the country is on the wrong track. (It’s 60 percent–27 percent among registered voters — most of the responses differ modestly when you switch to registered voters but without demographic breakdowns.) Only among Biden voters (49 percent), Democrats (47 percent), liberals (43 percent), and black Americans (42 percent) is the right-track number over 40 or higher than the wrong-track number. Among independents, the wrong track leads 66 percent–20 percent. Among Hispanics, 56 percent–23 percent.
  • By 45 percent–35 percent, respondents are specifically pessimistic about “the next few years with Joe Biden as President.”
  • Respondents are pessimistic about the pandemic, but perhaps overly so due to national news: Forty-four percent say that cases are surging nationally, but only 33 percent say that about their own community. Only 30 percent think the worst is over, while 19 percent say that we’re in the worst of it now, and another 25 percent say that it will get worse. Fifty-nine percent say the pandemic will still not be over by the end of 2022, including 21 percent who say that it will never end.

Americans do not have much faith in their president — and, increasingly, they don’t like him, either:

  • Joe Biden’s favorability rating is underwater, 49 percent–44 percent — and 51 percent–47 percent among registered voters, fewer of whom have no opinions. Biden is even among Hispanics, 45 percent–45 percent, and viewed unfavorably by independents 59 percent–36 percent, Midwesterners 54 percent–40 percent, and 18–29-year-olds 44 percent–42 percent.
  • At least Biden is doing better than Kamala Harris, who polls at 50 percent–40 percent unfavorable. Even among black respondents, Harris fares worse than Biden does.
  • Biden’s job approval is even worse, down 49 percent–40 percent (51 percent–43 percent among registered voters), including being underwater 56 percent–34 percent among independents, 43 percent–41 percent among Hispanics, 54 percent–37 percent in the Midwest, 44 percent–34 percent among 18–29-year-olds. Even among black Americans, among whom Democrats need to roll up lopsided margins, Biden’s job approval is 58 percent approve, 25 percent disapprove, with only 23 percent strongly approving. That is a bad sign for Democratic turnout.
  • Biden gets 48 percent–41 percent disapproval on the economy, 49 percent–36 percent disapproval on foreign policy, and 52 percent–24 percent disapproval on guns. There is no issue on which Biden is above water.
  • Biden’s approval rating on his handling of COVID is not terrible, but it is also underwater, 46 percent–43 percent disapproving versus approving (47 percent–46 percent among registered voters), with 35 percent strongly disapproving. Independents disapprove by 54 percent–35 percent.
  • Biden is seen as a weak leader, 57 percent–43 percent. Sixty-seven percent of noncollege white women, 65 percent of independents, 58 percent of 18–29-year-olds, 57 percent of Hispanics, 54 percent of women, 54 percent of college-educated white men, 51 percent of college-educated white women, 28 percent of black Americans, and 21 percent of Biden voters see Biden as weak. By 50 percent–34 percent, respondents lack confidence in Biden in an international crisis.
  • Biden even now loses on the empathy question: By 50 percent–41 percent, respondents say he does not care about people like them. For a Democrat who once built a reputation for empathy, that is poison. He’s underwater on that question 60 percent–33 percent among independents and 47 percent–40 percent among Hispanics. Twenty-eight percent of black Americans and 45 percent of college-educated white women say that Biden doesn’t care much or at all about people like them.
  • Biden also polls poorly on honesty and trustworthiness, losing 44 percent–38 percent, and on saying what he believes, 46 percent–37 percent.
  • By 60 percent–15 percent, respondents don’t think that Biden can bring the country together.
  • Thirty-eight percent say that Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election, including 52 percent of white women without college degrees, 41 percent of independents, 38 percent of Hispanics, 35 percent of people under 30, 12 percent of black Americans, 80 percent of Trump voters, and — humorously — 2 percent of Biden voters.
  • But cheer up, Joe! Biden still beats one guy. Donald Trump’s unfavorables are 53 percent–39 percent, and a full 47 percent have strongly unfavorable views of Trump. The latter number includes 42 percent of independents and 6 percent of Trump voters.

Immigration is a hot issue right now, and it is also not good news for Biden, for open borders, or for immigration in general, although there are silver linings for more moderate immigration policy:

  • Only a third of all respondents say that immigration makes the country better, compared to about the same number who say that it makes America worse (33 percent–32 percent). The partisan divide is sharp: Fifty-seven percent of Trump voters say worse, 60 percent of Biden voters say better. Noncollege whites are by far the likeliest group to say “worse.”
  • Turning to illegal immigration, 59 percent say it is a serious problem, including 40 percent who define it as “very serious.” Fifty-four percent of black Americans, 48 percent of Hispanics, 65 percent of independents, and 42 percent of Democrats rate illegal immigration as a serious problem. Yet again, however, these figures are significantly lower when people are asked about their own communities (only 29 percent say that it’s a serious problem).
  • Eighty-two percent say that immigration is an important issue to them — more than say that for abortion, guns, or climate change. However, only 7 percent listed it as their No. 1 issue.
  • Only 38 percent want all illegal immigrants deported; 51 percent support a path to citizenship. There remains a significant moderate middle that wants the border enforced but not sealed, and wants the law upheld but not blindly or mercilessly.
  • Democrats have the slightest edge, 27 percent–26 percent, when asked which party people trust more on immigration (30 percent–29 percent among registered voters), and 27 percent to 23 percent among Hispanics. Turning specifically to Joe Biden, his approval rating for his handling of immigration is deep in the toilet: 59 percent–23 percent disapproval, and 41 percent to 4 percent strong disapproval vs. strong approval. (Approval is worse with registered voters, 61 percent–24 percent.) Hispanics disapprove by 52 percent–21 percent, independents 63 percent–21 percent, black Americans 39 percent–36 percent, college-educated white women 63 percent–25 percent, and more than a third of his own voters (36 percent) disapprove.
  • When asked specifically whether Biden has been “too hard on immigration” or “not hard enough,” 50 percent say not hard enough, including 43 percent of Hispanics, 57 percent of independents, and 31 percent of black Americans. That 43 percent number among Hispanics should tell you a lot about the political shift under way among the fastest-growing voter bloc.

What about the state of the two parties in general?

  • Democrats still lead 52 percent–48 percent in the generic congressional ballot, although Republicans draw 57 percent of independents, 43 percent of Hispanics, 18 percent of black Americans. Interestingly, on the generic ballot, Republicans do the same with 18–29-year-olds as with the respondents as a whole; the most Democratic segment is 30–44-year-olds, who favor Democrats 56 percent–44 percent. Given the long-standing bias of generic ballot polls and their tendency to shift, this is a bad place for Democrats to be in this early in a midterm cycle.
  • The two parties are unpopular, Democrats by 52 percent–39 percent (54 percent–41 percent among registered voters), Republicans by 58 percent–32 percent. Twenty-one percent of Republicans and 32 percent of Trump voters have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.
  • By 47 percent–20 percent, respondents blame Democrats rather than Republicans for Congress getting less done than usual. Among independents, Democrats get the blame 42 percent–12 percent. Three percent of Americans strongly approve of the job Congress is doing.

With abortion in the news and on the Supreme Court docket, the poll also offers a snapshot of current opinion about abortion and the courts:

  • On abortion, typically of public polling, the public is divided: Forty-one percent (and 42 percent of Hispanics) want it illegal in all cases or with very limited exceptions (“such as when the life of the mother is in danger”), 30 percent want it legal in all cases, with the decisive 28 percent holding that “abortion should be legal, but with some restrictions (such as for minors or late-term abortions).” Unsurprisingly, there are big partisan divides on this question, and college-educated white women are the strongest demographic for legal abortion.
  • When the question turns to timing, 59 percent say abortion should be banned after 15 weeks or earlier, and 72 percent say it should be banned after six months or earlier.
  • Respondents were asked which branch of the federal government — executive, legislative, or judicial — was the most powerful. Thirty-six percent said they were equal and 18 percent had no opinion, but among those who picked a branch, more chose the courts (17 percent) than the presidency (15 percent) or Congress (14 percent). The pattern of believing that the judiciary is the most powerful branch was strongest among Hispanics, women (especially college-educated white women), and Trump voters. For anyone who believes in a fundamentally democratic system of government, the number of voters who believe that the “least dangerous branch” is more powerful than the elected branches should be profoundly depressing.

Of course, this is just one poll, and all-adults national polls are no substitute for state-by-state polls of registered or likely voters. But you really would not want to be Biden’s team reading this one. And if you have seen many polls lately, while YouGov asks a deeper slate of questions, the news for Biden is far from an outlier.

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