Americans are putting out some mighty strong “Let’s go, Brandon” vibes in these new numbers from Pew.
He’s under 45 percent in confidence on handling COVID, the issue that probably won him the election.
The most consequential mystery in politics right now is what happens to Biden’s polling if, as we all desperately hope, COVID finally abates this year and inflation pressure begins to ease. The optimistic narrative for Democrats is that he’ll get credit for that from voters. When things feel better in the country the president’s numbers tend to rise, whether he deserves credit for those improving conditions or not.
The pessimistic narrative is that views of Biden have concretized and are no longer much amenable to changing, even if conditions change. He’ll get a modest bounce by summer if COVID turns endemic and we get a few encouraging jobs reports, but would anyone be terribly surprised if his ceiling in job approval were 45-46 percent or so at this point? If just five percentage points’ worth of voters who supported him early last year has arrived at the conclusion that he’s not up to the job, they might never return to the fold. He might be roadblocked from a true political comeback.
He’s at 41/56 approval in this poll, right in line with a slew of others. Over the weekend he recorded his worst numbers as president to date in the RCP poll of polls, bottoming out at 40.5 percent approval and 55.3 percent disapproval in the average.
He saw a modest recovery between late November and mid-December, rising above 44 percent approval. Then Omicron smacked the country across the head with a 2×4. His net disapproval has doubled since December 18.
A scary fact for Dems: His approval rating today is almost exactly what Trump’s was on this date four years ago, when the then-president registered 40.1/55.5 in the RCP average. Trump gained a modest amount of ground throughout 2018, eventually reaching 43.9 percent on November 1 of that year. That was low enough for Democrats to wallop Republicans in House races. Biden’s job approval is meaningfully lower right now than Trump’s was that November.
Biden has more reason to hope for a rebound now than Trump did then since views of Biden are more malleable than views of Trump were. People don’t feel as strongly about him and so their perceptions of his performance may be influenced more heavily by events. That’s what Dems are counting on if the picture on COVID brightens as expected.
But it cuts both ways. Inflation could continue to rise. Russia could roll over Ukraine, inspiring China to roll over Taiwan. We could encounter a dangerous new variant that arises abroad (maybe from China?) due to low levels of global population immunity.
Kamala Harris could continue to give interviews.
There’s no telling how bad things might get. And they’re already starkly bad:
— John Gramlich (@johngramlich) January 25, 2022
The point to bear in mind about declining confidence in Biden is that it’s not Republicans who are driving it. Righties had little confidence in him to begin with; there’s only so much support he can shed from a cohort of supporters that’s already small. It’s Democrats who began with great expectations and have since found themselves disappointed about, well, everything:
He has two problems within his own party. One is that he’s had objectively bad results on priorities which all Americans share, which will hurt him with Dems and everyone else. The other is that he’s trying to manage an unruly coalition that’s frustrated by intraparty gridlock in Congress, with Biden powerless to bring the party’s factions together. I mean:
NEW: In a one-on-one interview with me at the WV Capitol, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) responds to recent criticism from Bernie Sanders:
“Well Senator Sanders is not a Democrat…He’s a socialist… It’s not what I think the majority of Americans represent.”
— Nathaniel Reed (@ReedReports) January 25, 2022
Manchin’s reportedly furious at Ron Klain, believing that he’s pushed Biden way too far to the left in prioritizing progressive goals. With centrists and leftists divided and congressional Dems paralyzed, the party’s rank and file is destined to feel disappointed about Biden’s first year. Just 34 percent of Dems think he’ll have a successful presidency now, per Pew, down from 51 percent a year ago. And Manchinema’s veto power over the agenda has left Dem voters believing that Biden is listening to moderates more than he is liberals:
Biden isn’t listening too much to moderates. On the contrary, he wasted months on Build Back Better because he foolishly bought the hype that he had a mandate a la FDR or LBJ despite the hair’s breadth of his margins in the House and Senate. That must be annoying to moderate Dems. But meanwhile, because Manchin and Sinema have successfully stopped BBB and the voting-rights bills, progressives are annoyed that Biden seems incapable of imposing his will. Nobody’s happy.
And so there’s a bit of “Let’s go, Brandon” energy even in his own party nowadays.
One more data point for you. Among the various age groups, the one that approves of Biden’s job performance least is … adults aged 18-29, at 35/63. That’s not supposed to happen since younger adults are a liberal-leaning demographic. But maybe that’s just it — twentysomethings, skewing left, are more disappointed than anyone that Biden hasn’t been able to deliver on his agenda. He’s not likely to deliver much this year either, which means the crisis of confidence he’s suffering from his own side could persist to Election Day. Big trouble for Dems ahead.