Yes, well, a searing national humiliation in Kabul playing out day by agonizing day on television screens will do that.
Considering that polls last year tilted about five points Democratic due to Republican nonresponse bias, what do we think Biden’s *true* approval rating is in this Suffolk survey? Maybe 36, 37 percent?
This one is an obvious outlier in terms of the degree to which it shows Biden declining but it’s not an outlier in terms of the trend. His approval has dropped in various polling averages lately, as you might expect. And it’s not all because of Afghanistan.
But it’s mostly because of Afghanistan.
For President Joe Biden, the cost of the war’s chaotic end has been steep. His overall job-approval rating now stands at 41% approve versus 55% who disapprove – a big drop in the closely watched barometer of political health. While he has held the backing of 87% of Democrats, only 32% of independents now say he’s doing a good job…
Half approved of his handling of the pandemic, 39% of his handling of the economy, 26% of his handling of the Afghan withdrawal…
“Today, President Biden’s overall approval has taken a turn for the worse due to his awful job performance rating on Afghanistan,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center. “His approval on immigration and the economy are also upside down. The only issue keeping him remotely in the game is his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, where he is barely at 50%.”
Biden’s decision to pull out troops was backed by most Americans, 53%-38%. But almost two-thirds, 62%, disapproved of the way his administration has handled that withdrawal.
The silver lining for Biden is that, in spite of everything, Americans still believe that withdrawing was the right move. But the fiasco at the airport has turned what should have been a major political win for him, ending America’s 20-year nation-building folly in Afghanistan, into a major liability instead.
No other poll has him underwater by as much as 14 points although Trump-friendly Rasmussen has him at 44/55 and other surveys show his support shrinking. Thanks to this new Suffolk data, he’s upside down in RCP’s average today:
FiveThirtyEight’s average still has him net positive at 48.4/46.1 but that’s down from 50.9/42.9 three weeks ago. I think this point is true:
You should probably assume that Biden has a much lower floor than Trump, since most rank-and-file Democrats like and admire mainstream news sources and CNN/NYT have more power to drive his numbers down than they do for Trump. https://t.co/UPgxzFJM6X
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 24, 2021
MSNBC and CNN have been far more critical of Biden on the Afghanistan pullout than Fox and righty media would have allowed themselves to be of Trump in a similar situation. That helps account for why, no matter what was going on, Trump could never fall much below 40 percent for any length of time. The conservative political ecosystem was always pushing hard towards loyalty. The same is unlikely to happen for Biden on the left if another major crisis unfurls soon or if the evacuation in Kabul implodes, with massive loss of life.
There may be something to this too:
possible that when dust settles, Biden's "true" approval will be revealed to be something like +4-5 on net, basically the results of the 2020 national popular vote, and that events of the last month simply pushed people who didn't vote for Biden from undecided to disapprove https://t.co/jpjlsvyxka
— Kyle Kondik (@kkondik) August 24, 2021
Biden’s falling support among independents might be a case of the Afghanistan debacle having brought his “honeymoon period” to a close. Some indies were never going to stick with him durably; losing them was a matter of an incident arising to remind them why they were lukewarm about Biden in the first place. That’s normal political “gravity,” something FiveThirtyEight picked up on recently in noticing how Biden’s numbers among independents had been slowly slipping for months. On top of that, COVID has come roaring back via the Delta variant, leaving Americans exasperated at having to face hard months ahead after Biden had all but declared the pandemic over. The same FiveThirtyEight analysis found that his numbers on handling the pandemic had dipped in the past few weeks from the low 60s in polling to 55 percent as Delta spread. Today, in the Suffolk survey, he’s down to 50. Not a good trend, especially in tandem with the sh*tshow in Kabul.
Should Democrats worry? Well … yes. Dan McLaughlin noticed yesterday that, according to the pollster Civiqs, Biden is now under 50 percent approval in no fewer than 11 states that he won last November. And Harry Enten observed this weekend that the shift towards Republicans in competitive races has accelerated lately:
Across more than 30 special state legislative and federal elections during the Biden presidency, Republicans are doing 4 points better on average than former President Donald Trump did in these same districts last year…
What really jumps out, though, is the trend.
When you look at the first 17 special elections this year (through early April), the Republican overperformance over Trump was just a point. Examining the last 17 special elections, the overperformance has been 7 points. When you splice the data even further, Republicans have been outperforming the 2020 baseline by double-digits since the beginning of July.
Nothing that’s happened this month should reverse that trend. To the contrary. Sleepy Joe had better wake up and right the ship, as his agenda is headed for an iceberg next November.
I’ll leave you with one more result from the Suffolk poll as a gloss on the Ben Sasse versus J.D. Vance debate from yesterday: “By 84%-10%, those surveyed said the Afghans who had worked as translators for the U.S. military – and as a result may now be targeted for retribution – should be eligible for special refugee visas. Their admission to the United States with their immediate family members was supported by 79% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats.”