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Decline: Biden's job approval down 25 net points with black voters since August 1

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The freakout among Democrats is going to be amazingly intense when they finally pass infrastructure and Biden’s polls barely budge.

In fact, they may be so desperate for some midterm turnout juice next summer that they end up quietly rooting for SCOTUS to overturn Roe.

The news in this Morning Consult poll isn’t so much what’s changed as what hasn’t. I wrote about their previous poll last month, after Biden issued his federal vaccine mandate. That sent his numbers tumbling among African-Americans, especially the unvaccinated. Within that group he went from 35 percent net job approval (i.e. approval minus disapproval) to 18 percent net approval in just 12 days. He dipped a bit among vaccinated African-Americans too but only a bit, just six net points.

It’s now almost a month later. The good news for him is that he hasn’t lost any more ground among unvaccinated black voters. The bad news is that he has lost more ground among the vaccinated. His numbers aren’t recovering among a core Democratic demographic. They’re getting worse.

Looking at that graph, you can see that he didn’t decline much with black voters during the Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco over the final two weeks of August. (In fact, he lost less ground with the unvaccinated during that period than he did during the first two weeks of August, interestingly.) It was the federal mandate that really hurt him, dropping his numbers across both vaccine cohorts here. As to why he’s continued to see his numbers drop, Morning Consult has a theory:

Sentiment about Biden among both vaccinated and unvaccinated Black Americans appeared to be improving slightly in late September, but that recovery stalled as his administration’s handling of Haitian refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border dominated headlines, prompting a weakening in his standing among vaccinated Black Americans…

Black voters were more likely than the average voter (68 percent to 58 percent) to report having seen, read or heard at least something about the administration’s work to deport Haitian refugees, according to Morning Consult/Politico polling.

I’m skeptical. It seems too pat that African-Americans would lose faith in him over a few days of bad news coverage about a group of black immigrants at the border. I think their slide is better explained as part of a general decline in public confidence in Biden as COVID surged and the economy slowed. The fact that some key priorities for black voters seem to be going nowhere in Congress may be starting to bite too:

Robinson, founder of the Black Male Voter Project, … remembers the exact moment his optimism that President Biden would be different began to fade: when Democrats in May said they were willing to significantly weaken a policing-reform bill to get Republican support.

More disappointments followed. Robinson was dismayed that Biden did not push for changes to the filibuster to enact a $15 minimum wage. He was upset that the president did not try to halt a raft of voting restrictions passed by Georgia’s GOP-led legislature.

“I think the frustration is at an all-time high, and Biden can’t go to Georgia or any other Black state in the South and say, ‘This is what we delivered in 2021,’ ” said Robinson, whose group believes it reached 1.2 million Black men in Georgia. “Black men are pissed off about the nothingness that has happened. . . . Does it make the work harder? It makes the work damn near impossible.”

Maybe it’s sinking in that Biden and his party just aren’t going to deliver for them. Whatever the explanation, Morning Consult has him down 25 net points with African-Americans since August 1. Among the unvaccinated specifically, it’s 36 net points. The Economist/YouGov poll that Ed wrote about earlier has seen a similar decline, from +61 net approval among blacks at the end of August (74/13) to +34 now (61/27). That’s a loss of 27 net points within two months.

What happens to Terry McAuliffe in Virginia when black voters decide not to show up?

There’s another poll out today that should worry Dems. At a moment when they’re haggling with each other to decide whether to spend more than $2 trillion on social welfare programs or a mere $1.5 trillion, Gallup finds that Americans have reverted to their traditional belief that the government is trying to do too many things. Last year, for the first time in nearly 20 years, Americans actually wanted to see government do more to solve problems:

The surge towards activist government in 2020 was probably a reaction to the pandemic, just as the surge towards activist government in 2001 was a reaction to 9/11. But even if so, Americans seem to want to retrench rather than keep up the COVID-era trend of expanding government services:

If you’re a vulnerable centrist Democrat representing a swing district, how do you feel about spending another $2 trillion when you look at a graph like that, knowing that anxiety about inflation is rising every day? It’s been said before but it can’t be said enough: Biden may have won fair and square last year but he didn’t earn a mandate to become the next FDR.

Not with the general public, at least. Black Democrats may feel differently. Hence the Dems’ dilemma: Whether they go big on reconciliation or back away, some large and important group of voters seems destined to be disappointed. Time for them to choose their poison.