CNN poll: Biden collapsing "across the board"

The good news for Joe Biden in today’s CNN poll: his job approval got above 40%. The bad news is that there are nearly no undecideds when it comes to his performance as president. Biden hits a high of 58% disapproval in the latest CNN survey and gets a -17 gap in approval that manages to outstrip his already-pathetic RCP aggregate gap.

CNN’s data provides the real takeaway, which is that Biden’s confidence-crisis cascade has accelerated rather than slowed:

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of how Joe Biden is handling his presidency, with most of that group saying there’s literally nothing Biden has done since taking office that they approve of. The finding, from a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS in January and February, highlights the entrenched politics driving the nation at the start of the midterm year, with little agreement across party lines on priorities for the government or how to handle the coronavirus pandemic.

The President’s ratings have fallen across the board, the survey found. Just 41% approved of the way he’s handling his job while 58% disapproved, a significant drop from his approval numbers in CNN polling last year. Just 36% of independents and 9% of Republicans approved. Although his approval rating still stood at 83% among Democrats, that was down from 94% late last summer. Biden also continues to have more strong detractors than he does fervent supporters: 41% of Americans disapproved strongly of his performance as President versus 15% who strongly approved. Some of the shift in Biden’s numbers comes from a change in Americans’ partisan tilt: Republicans and Democrats were about at parity in the new poll, with fewer identifying as Democrats than in other recent CNN polling.

That seems a bit belated; other polls, notably Gallup, started showing that realignment a few months ago. Even so, that parity doesn’t account for results like this:

Overall, Americans said, 57% to 41%, that the first year of the Biden administration has been more of a failure than a success. For comparison, in January 2010, Americans were split about evenly on how to define Barack Obama’s first year as president. An 83% majority of Democrats called Biden’s first year a success — more than the 78% of Democrats who said the same about Obama in 2010. But just 35% of independents saw Biden’s first year as successful, down from the 44% who said the same of Obama.

CNN’s John King finds the results “stunning,” and not just on the top line. Amusingly, King chalks this up to “messaging” issues in communicating the “legitimate successes of the Biden administration”:

What would those “legitimate successes” be, pray tell? Biden shoved a massive stimulus bill through Congress which touched off a massive inflationary wave. Biden then spent months ignoring inflation, belittling concerns about it, and then tried to sell it as economic growth. Biden did get bipartisan support for an infrastructure bill, but then insisted on tying it repeatedly to his dead-whale Build Back Better proposal, which made it look like a failure in the end. He went full-tilt against the Senate filibuster for months despite knowing the effort would fail miserably. And let’s not forget Biden’s “legitimate success” in Afghanistan, in which he left behind thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of our allies and triggered a collapse that put the Taliban in charge before we’d even gotten all the way out.

This isn’t a messaging problem — it’s a performance problem. And despite the media’s attempts to carry water for Biden and Democrats by casting it as a messaging problem, voters clearly aren’t fooled at all.

There aren’t a lot of surprises in the crosstabs. Biden’s approval is remarkably similar across age demos and across income demos. The biggest worry for Biden and Democrats will be the gender gap. Men disapprove on almost a 2:1 margin (37/63), but women rate him -9 net too (45/54). Twice as many women disapprove strongly (36%) than approve strongly (16%), however. Support among blacks is at a worrisome 69/31, but only 30% strongly approve while 21% strongly disapprove. College graduates barely tilt favorably (50/49), but twice as many strongly disapprove (34%) than strongly approve (17%). Among non-college graduates, Biden gets a 36/63 overall, and an atrocious 13/45 on strong positions.

On the economy, there’s not much point delving into the crosstabs. Six months ago, Biden scored 51/49 in this area. In today’s poll, it’s 37/62. He’s at 41/58 on helping the middle class, just what Democrats don’t need in a midterm cycle. CNN finally started asking about Biden’s job performance on crime too, and came up with a 40/57 that mirrors his overall job approval.

And on COVID-19, Biden went from a 54/45 two months ago to a 45/54 today. If anything, though, this shows that the primary cause of his collapse isn’t the pandemic. That means any improvement on the pandemic front is not likely to provide much of a bounce, either, especially if Biden remains behind the curve on the rollback of restrictions. That only leads to the impression that Biden’s a president that’s fallen and can’t get up, and that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy in future polling.