AP poll: Nearly half of all Americans question Biden's mental fitness for the job

Just the fact that the Associated Press and NORC and Morning Consult asked this question in their latest polls should send up red flares for the White House. The response should have sirens blaring all over the West Wing, especially since this survey took place before President Minor Incursion spoke yesterday at his presser.

More Americans disapprove than approve of how Biden is handling his job as president, 56% to 43%. As of now, just 28% of Americans say they want Biden to run for reelection in 2024, including only 48% of Democrats. …

It’s a stark reversal from early in Biden’s presidency.

In July, 59% of Americans said they approved of Biden’s job performance in an AP-NORC poll. His approval rating dipped to 50% by late September in the aftermath of the chaotic and bloody U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and amid surging coronavirus infections and the administration’s fitful efforts to push economic, infrastructure and tax policies through Congress.

The 43/56 is just the appetizer, especially since it largely matches up with the polling consensus of late. The gap perfectly parallels RCP’s latest aggregate job-approval polling average, as I noted in my earlier post:

The real meat of the poll comes further in the AP’s analysis, although it was newsy enough to tweet. By nearly a 2:1 margin, respondents are not confident in Biden’s compos mentis status to serve as president:

Only about a quarter were very confident that Biden “has the mental capability to serve effectively as president” or “is healthy enough to serve effectively as president.” Close to half are not confident in Biden’s mental capability or health.

Asked by a reporter at Wednesday’s news conference about other polling that shows a significant percentage of Americans had concerns about Biden’s mental health, the president shrugged off those findings.

This result comes from polling conducted between January 13-18. Furthermore, they match up with a Politico/Morning Consult poll result released yesterday that showed 49% of respondents disagreeing with the statement that Biden is “mentally fit.” That was much closer than the AP-NORC result at 40/49, but only 22% strongly agreed that Biden was mentally fit, while 37% strongly disagreed. And as James Rosen pointed out in the presser, only 43% of Democrats strongly agreed with that proposition, although 74% of Democrats agreed with it to some extent. Among independents, the numbers were 37/48, and 19/33 for strong agreement/disagreement.

Did Biden’s strategy of going long and taking all comers in the presser work? We will see the next time pollsters test that question, but so far the necessity for clean-ups by the White House don’t look promising. Aaron Blake also notes that the attempts to spin Biden’s fumbles bear little resemblance to what Biden actually said, and accidentally strengthen the case for incompetence if not unfitness:

President Biden clearly wanted to send a message at Wednesday’s news conference. After the media complained for the better part of a year about their lack of access to him, Biden spoke and answered questions for nearly two hours — and he suggested/joked repeatedly that it might go on for hours more. The message: I’m not hiding from this.

But the whole thing also wound up reinforcing why he generally has been kept out of such lengthy back-and-forths.

On two extremely important issues, Biden offered comments that the White House has now been forced to clean up. The first was his comment that a “minor incursion” by Russia in Ukraine might not merit such a serious and unified response by the West. The second was his comment that future elections “easily could be illegitimate.”

In both cases, Biden said things that probably made sense to him at the time, and that the White House sought to clarify by suggesting Biden had merely been misinterpreted or his words misconstrued. But in both cases, the explanation of what he really meant differed significantly from what he said.

The clean-up has consisted mainly of “forget what Biden said, he really meant the opposite” in both major fumbles. That reaction, while entirely required to deal with the damage Biden created, only underscores the sense of incompetence and unfitness for office Biden has demonstrated. Expect pollsters to continue to ask this question as a result, and for the responses to get worse rather than improve for Biden.