Just NBC the decline: Slidin' Biden approval drops to 39% -- even in post-SCOTUS leak poll

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

NBC News not only buried the lede a bit in this report on their own poll, even the lede they ran with turned into a bit of a cheat. Joe Biden’s approval and disapproval ratings hit record levels in the NBC series, with approval falling below the 40% level for the first time. Kamala Harris’ approval levels fell to a new low as well.

So how did NBC cover the news from its own poll?

Support for abortion rights has reached a record high, and nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, according to a new national NBC News poll conducted after the leak of a draft opinion that would strike down the constitutional right to abortion.

What’s more, the survey finds abortion climbing up the list of issues that Americans believe are the most important, and that Democratic interest in the upcoming midterms has increased since earlier this year.

Yeah, but …

But the poll also found that this Supreme Court draft opinion hasn’t substantially altered the overall political environment heading into November’s elections — with inflation and the economy remaining the public’s top issues, President Joe Biden’s job rating falling below 40 percent and a whopping 75 percent of Americans saying the country is headed in the wrong direction.

We’ll get to the abortion responses later, but it’s worth pointing out that these results came in the midst of the leak of the draft Dobbs opinion that would overturn Roe. Politico leaked the draft on the evening of May 2, exactly two weeks ago, and this poll was conducted between May 5-7 among 1,000 adults. That was right at the peak of media outrage and Joe Biden’s fulminating over the radical court and the need to defend abortion on demand at all stages of pregnancy.

The result? Biden’s job approval dropped to 39/56 among all adults, the lowest of his presidency in this series. It’s only incrementally worse than the 40/55 from last month, but it’s clearly not moving in the right direction. Among registered voters, Biden gets a 42/54, slightly better than March’s 41/54, but it’s notable to see a Democrat doing worse among the wider sample. Usually Democrats core better with “all adults” than samples restricted to registered voters.

On personal approval, Biden’s also crashing. He’s down to 37/51 on that measure, the first time that a majority views him personally as negative. In April 2021, Biden got a 50/36 on that question, but Kamala Harris is doing even worse. Respondents give Harris a 31/48 favorability score, down from her inaugural peak of 46/41. Only 17% view Biden “very positive[ly],” and only 14% say the same for Harris. And that’s after the SCOTUS leak, too.

Here’s a fun fact on favorability, post-SCOTUS leak: Republicans actually do better on this (35/46) than Democrats (31/50). In an NBC News poll. How’s that for the media’s narrative freak-out?

Oh, and as far as “abortion is now a major issue in the midterms,” well:

In the immediate churn of wall-to-wall media hysteria over the end of Roe, abortion ticked up seven points for “most important issue” to ten percent of all respondents. That’s almost the same as immigration, and just a quarter of the response for the combined issues of inflation and the overall economy (40%). Even combining the choices, abortion still comes in below inflation and the economy separately, and especially combined.

And how does Biden do on those and other issues in this poll?

  • Economy: 33/62, 33/63 in March
  • Inflation: 23/71
  • Immigration: 34/58, 33/59 in March
  • Ukraine: 41/48, 41/52

But can abortion save Democrats anyway? NBC crafts its first question on this around the ill-understood Roe decision, and gets the topline Democrats want. A majority of 52% of registered voters say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who favored overturning Roe, while only 26% say they are more likely. However, when it comes to actual abortion law, only 37% want to uphold the absolutist status quo that Biden and Democrats now want to push. And that mix has not changed much at all, even after the SCOTUS leak:

“Always legal” hit its highest level of the series, but only three points higher than its June 2019 peak. The other options here all envision legal restrictions on abortion that Chuck Schumer’s bill would have prevented, combining up for a bill that ran counter to the wishes of 63% of the electorate in some or all ways. That bill won’t help the Democrats who voted for it, especially those outside of the deep-blue states where abortion on demand is more popular than it is nationwide.

In other words, abortion won’t save Democrats, not even with media assistance. And neither will Joe Biden or Kamala Harris.