Honeymoon over? Biden's approval rating falls under 50% in Monmouth poll

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Has Joe Biden already run out of popular steam after less than five months in office? So says Monmouth University in its latest poll on presidential job approval. Under the helpful headline “Biden Spending Plans Remain Popular,” the actual lead discusses Biden’s job approval gap being cut by more than half from +13 to +5. Biden’s now below 50% in this series for the first time since taking office.

Oddly enough, one can’t blame Republicans for the decline, as Biden’s job approval actually improved among GOP voters. Democrats and independents … not so much:

Joe Biden’s job rating has taken a dip as progress on his spending plans has stalled. The latest Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds a majority of the American public continues to support these plans despite concerns about a potential rise in consumer prices as a result. One question is whether the plans should be passed with or without bipartisan support. A sense that the president has not quite met expectations for boosting the middle class may factor into his strategy on passing these bills.

Biden currently holds a job rating of 48% approve and 43% disapprove. This is down from his 54% approve and 41% disapprove rating in April. The president gets a positive rating from 86% of Democrats (down from 95%), 36% of independents (down from 47%), and 19% of Republicans (up from 11%). Prior Biden approval levels registered 51% in March and 54% in January.

Monmouth’s pollster thinks this is an artifact of Biden’s inability to get his spending bills through Congress. However, at least one of them already did pass, and voters aren’t quite as demanding as their analysis implies:

Biden’s large spending plans remain broadly popular, including the Covid stimulus plan passed early in his term (60% support), his proposed infrastructure package (68%), and his proposal to expand access to health care, college, paid leave and other services (61%). The current results are nearly identical to prior polls taken this year.

Just under half (46%) say these proposed plans should be passed as is, even if they do not get bipartisan support. This position is held by 80% of Democrats, but just 36% of independents and 18% of Republicans agree. Another 22% of Americans say the plans should be significantly cut to get backing from both parties and 24% say they should not be passed at all even with bipartisan support.

We’ll get to the crosstabs shortly. However, another important point in this poll comes from the “right direction” question, which dropped significantly since April. It’s now at 37/57, where in April the sample split almost evenly at 46/50. The current position is similar to March 2020 before the pandemic hit (39/54) and identical to the month prior (February 2020, 37/57). The 46/50 result was the best number in the series going back nearly a decade; only June 2018 saw anything close at 40/53.

The sudden and sharp decline of this number and its correlation to Biden’s sharp reversal of popular momentum suggests that voters see Biden as part of the problem. Biden’s support is getting narrower as well. He has a healthy 56/34 job approval among non-white voters, but it’s underwater among white voters at 43/48. There’s a massive gender gap as well, with women approving 53/36 while Biden’s down 43/50 among men. Young voters approve but don’t seem enthusiastic at 49/37 and seniors give him a 52/43, but 35-54YOs have him at 42/47.

The numbers are much worse on the right/wrong direction question. Only three demos give even plurality support to the “right direction” position: Democrats, naturally but only 59/32, self-described liberals (62/34) and college graduates (47/46). It’s underwater in every other demo, and by double digits in most. Let’s look at the demos giving Biden his best job approval:

  • Non-whites: 40/54
  • Women: 44/51
  • Seniors: 36/59

This suggests that even Biden’s biggest backers are not yet sticking him with the responsibility for the wrong-direction feeling. If that doesn’t improve soon, however, Biden’s going to see even more erosion. Biden has a higher potential ceiling than Donald Trump had, and probably a higher floor as well, but the floor won’t be as high as Barack Obama’s. The more people see of Biden, the less warm and fuzzy they’ll think of him.

Of course, this is just one poll. What about job-approval ratings from other pollsters? Real Clear Politics’ tracking shows that the erosion appears to be small but real at the moment:

The Monmouth poll isn’t even the worst news for Biden on job approval ratings. A new poll from the Economist/YouGov has it at 48/45, down from 51/43 two weeks earlier. Even a big 53/44 from Morning Consult is a drop from 55/41 a month earlier. No one has Biden under water — yet — but the polls have mainly reported single-digit gaps where almost all of them reported double-digit gaps in Biden’s favor earlier.

So would passing the spending bills help? It might, especially the infrastructure bill, which is broadly popular. On whether to pass them as is or not, that’s where Biden might run into trouble. The “pass as is” position gets 46% but only 36% among independents, and mainly gets to 50% among the demos where Biden’s already doing best: Democrats (80%), non-whites (51%), women (50%), and voters under 35 years of age (56%). Bipartisanship doesn’t win any demos except Republicans and conservatives, however, and both of those would rather not pass them at all anyway.

This might be a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t proposition for Biden, especially if all of this spending ends up resulting in runaway inflation down the road. Voters are already worried about it (71/28), with 47% “very concerned” about inflation, and that’s across every demo except liberals. Even a majority of Democrats are at least somewhat concerned about inflation (55/44). If inflation keeps going, the only one to blame for that “wrong direction” will be Biden, and it will lead to further deflation … of Biden’s approval ratings.

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