Marist/NPR: That BBB vote hasn't stopped Biden's slide

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Remember when Joe Biden’s polling slide was simply a matter of moving his stalled agenda through Congress? Looks like Democrats and the media will need a new narrative to explain the Slidin’ Biden phenomenon. The latest poll from Marist and NPR shows Biden hitting “a new low” despite passage and signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the passage of the futile Build Back Better bill in the House:

Americans’ most pressing economic concern is inflation, and it’s contributing to a decline in how they view President Biden, according to a new NPR/Marist poll.

Biden’s approval is down to 42%, the lowest recorded in the survey since Biden took office. And a slim majority also say he hasn’t fulfilled his campaign promises. …

And just 42% approve of how Biden is handling the economy, while a majority — 52% — disapproves, his worst marks on the issue since taking office. His rating has dropped 6 points since September and is off from his high of 54% in April.

A slim majority of independents (51%) now disapproves of his handling of the economy as well. It’s a key group and one Biden won in the 2020 presidential election.

Is this an outlier? It could be — but not on presidential job approval. According to RCP, Biden’s -8 net is a bit cheerier than their current -12.1 aggregate. It’s now been two months since any poll other than Reuters put Biden’s approval in positive territory, when both IBD/TIPP and Hill/HarrisX put Biden slightly above water but still below 50%.

No, the outlier is in the generic ballot question:

Still, the poll finds Democrats hold a slight 46%-to-41% advantage on which party people would rather see in control of Congress. But the economy is dragging them down. Republicans have the narrow edge when it comes to which party would do a better job handling it.

Currently, RCP shows the GOP up 4.2 points in their aggregate, although that doesn’t include this result. The most recent Economist/YouGov poll also shows Democrats up, 42/38, close to the margin of error, and the most recent Politico/Morning Consult puts it at a tie, 43/43.

It’s possible that the passage of the BIF and the House passage of the BBB has bolstered the standing of congressional Democrats, or at least stopped the bleeding on the generic ballot. (Note well that Democrats only dropped down to a +3 in the Marist series in the first place.) But even if that’s the case — and it’s too early to tell — neither action has done diddly-squat for Biden’s standing. That suggests, as I have argued for over two months, that Biden’s problem isn’t so much agenda-based as it is a confidence-crisis cascade.

To that point, look at the data from this Marist series on overall job approval. In August, Biden had dropped from a post-inaugural peak in April of 54/44 to a still-respectable 49/44. In the first week of September, Biden had gone underwater at 43/51, rebounded slightly three weeks later to 45/46, and then has descended to the current 42/50. Whatever else one thinks about the proximate causes of Biden’s slide, passing massive spending bills isn’t solving them.

NPR attributes this mostly to inflation — an odd choice, given the inflection point of August and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but it’s certainly an arguable position. Thirty-nine percent of respondents cite inflation as the most important economic concern for the country, more than twice as many that cite the second-highest concern (wages). That’s half as many more than in July who cited inflation as the top problem (26%). Only 19% of Democrats agree, but 58% of Republicans and 42% of independents put inflation at the top of their economic concerns.

In July, Biden got a 50/45 approval rating on the economy. Now he’s down to 42/52 and Democrats trail Republicans 41/43. Indies’ approval of Biden on the economy is roughly equivalent to the overall number (42/51), and Biden is losing in every age and regional demo.

Clearly, economic concerns are driving these numbers, but that may also be an indirect expression of the confidence-crisis cascade, too. Most Americans lost trust in Biden’s competence and honesty in the Afghanistan disgrace, so Biden will get the blame for everything else going wrong from here on in. That’s what a cascade means, as Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush could explain. At length.

Update: Scott Rasmussen agrees that the BBB won’t solve Biden’s problems.