(NewsNation Now) — Little more than a year into President Joe Biden’s term, the commander-in-chief and his party are losing voter support to the GOP during a critical election year, a new NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll reveals.
The results of the poll released Monday indicate a grim situation for Biden, who voters scored poorly as a leader:
- 57 percent disapprove of Biden’s handling of his presidency
- 55 percent say he isn’t a clear communicator
- 54 percent say he is not mentally fit
Biden is set to make his first State of the Union address Tuesday, which comes after a mixed-bag year that included a successful bipartisan deal on the infrastructure plan but also critical reviews of issues such as the pullout of Afghanistan and handling of COVID-19.
“State of the Union addresses are always significant. More so when it’s your first,” said Michael Genovese, president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. “And even more so when you have No. 1 a war in Ukraine, No. 2 an ongoing COVID crisis and No. 3 cratering popularity, which is the problem that President Biden is facing now.”
NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ asked more than 1,000 registered voters about their thoughts about Biden, the biggest concerns facing the country and their worries about the COVID-19 pandemic. Most poll questions had a margin of error of about 3 percent, and the data was compiled on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So recent developments in Ukraine weren’t a factor in this poll.
Discontent with Biden’s performance as president in the NewsNation poll is consistent. An NPR poll released Friday stated 56 percent of respondents felt his first year in office was a “failure.” FiveThirtyEight’s tracker of his job approval rating shows a steady decline since mid-May.
Public concerns about Biden’s mental fitness had dropped below 50 percent late last year. But the poll shows the public’s concerns have resurfaced.
Members of the GOP have seized on the issue. Earlier this month, 38 Republicans sent a letter asking for Biden to take a cognitive test. Former President Donald Trump took a much-maligned cognitive test in his term.
Vice President Kamala Harris was also rated poorly in the NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll. Fifty-eight percent of respondents stated they were not confident in her ability to step in for Biden as president if needed.
It’s common for the president’s party to see a decline of support before midterm elections. But Decision Desk HQ adviser Scott Tranter said this swing ahead of the 2022 midterms was particularly high.
Thirty-five percent of voters polled by NewsNation identified as Republicans. But in a “generic ballot” question almost 42 percent of respondents said they would vote for a Republican candidate if the election were held today, while 39 percent would choose a Democrat. A generic ballot refers to a polling question asking respondents which party, rather than candidate, they prefer.
“Generally speaking, when the generic ballot favors one party or another, it’s indicative of how that party is going to fare in the upcoming elections,” Tranter said. “And the last time the Republicans were up this high, it was in 2010 and they swept the House.”
Voters’ concerns have also evolved over the last few months. At this point, their overwhelming concern is about inflation.
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Nearly 88 percent of respondents to this NewsNation poll said they were concerned about inflation, with 55 percent saying it is a bigger concern than COVID-19 and unemployment. This is a stark upending of sentiment since January, when respondents of the NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic remained top of mind.
A CNN poll conducted by SSRS in December found 45 percent of respondents believed Biden’s policies worsened the economy.
Many economic indicators, though, including unemployment, are heading in the right direction.
But Genovese, from Global Policy Institute, said inflation is so high it doesn’t matter.
“Inflation has basically ground out all of the good economic news,” Genovese said. “Almost everything in the economy that you want to go up is going up and almost everything you want to go down is going down, so the story of his economic policy is great success. But inflation is the headline and so that obscures everything else.”
On COVID-19, NewsNation asked respondents which position they would support Biden announcing during his State of the Union address:
- 27 percent favored vaccination requirements for large businesses
- 24 percent want a rollback of all masking and vaccination requirements
- 19 percent want mask requirements removed in all but highly populated areas such as airports and train stations
- Nine percent wanted vaccination requirements only for health care facilities
Meanwhile, casting a glance further out to the 2024 election, current opinions do not bode well for Biden. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they voted for Biden in 2020 while 39 percent said they favored Trump. However, when asked who they would vote for if the next election were held today, Biden’s support dropped to 36 percent and Trump’s increased to nearly 41 percent.
Though Trump was ousted from office by voters in 2020, the former president has been hot on the campaign trail this year, speaking at a rally in Texas, launching a social media platform and, on Sunday, winning the Conservative Political Action Conferences’ straw poll for 2024 presidential candidate. Trump is set to address CPAC in Florida next month — where clues may be revealed about how he would approach campaigning for the 2024 GOP ticket.
However, as Tranter notes, the numbers don’t signify much at present.
“Statistically speaking, Trump and Biden are tied,” Tranter said. “What the numbers are saying is despite the fact that Biden’s approval ratings are right around where Trump’s were at this point in his presidency, the election between these two guys, if it were to happen today, would essentially be where it was in 2020… so after two years, Biden certainly hasn’t picked up any distance between him and Trump.”
How to watch the State of the Union address
Biden will give his State of the Union address Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET followed by the GOP response by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa) and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s progressive response on behalf of left-wing group Working Families Party.
NewsNation will air the full State of the Union and responses on-air and online followed by an analysis by NewsNation’s Leland Vittert, Marni Hughes and a host of experts. To learn how you can watch all our coverage, use our channel finder.