Updated July 29, 2022 - 5:03 pm
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are at an all-time low, prompting Democrats to question whether he should seek a second term and what impact his flagging popularity will have on the midterm elections, particularly in key states like Nevada.
A spate of recent national public opinion polls show Biden ratings plunging lower than those recorded for any recent president – and going back historically to the slump Harry Truman experienced.
Truman had a job approval rating of 22 percent in February 1952, according to the Gallup records.
A new Gallup poll released Friday showed Biden with a new personal low job approval rating of just 38 percent, the first time Gallup has measured him below 40 percent. His job-approval rating has fallen from 57 percent recorded in January 2021, when he was sworn into office.
According to the poll — taken July 5-26, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points — 59 percent of people disapprove of Biden’s handling of his job, with 45 percent “strongly” disapproving. While Biden still enjoys support from 78 percent of Democrats, just 31 percent of independents and 5 percent of Republicans approve of his job performance.
Another poll finds things even worse: Biden’s approval rating of 31 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll last week surpassed the 33-percent low mark of predecessor Donald Trump in late 2017.
Similar low ratings appeared in other national polls. The Real Clear Politics average this week put his job-approval rating at 38.1 percent, with 56.5 percent disapproving.
In the Quinnipiac poll, disapproval for Biden was highest among Republicans, 94 percent, and independents, 67 percent, while approval was highest among Democrats, 71 percent. The poll was conducted July 14-18 had a margin of error of plus-or-minus- 2.7 percentage points.
Disease, war and gas prices
Biden’s support coincides with several events and issues.
“A trying late summer and early fall 2021, marked by a surge in new coronavirus cases, the troubled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and rapidly increasing gas prices and inflation, led to a decline in Biden’s public support,” wrote Jeffery Jones, Gallup senior editor following release of an earlier poll.
The steep slide for Biden coincides with the highest rate of inflation in 40 years — a fact underscored by Republicans, who claim it was caused by spending bills the White House pushed through Congress after inauguration two years ago.
White House aides are quick to counter that inflation is high globally. Biden cannot be blamed for inflation in other countries also experiencing skyrocketing costs for food, energy, commodities and goods, aides told reporters this week.
The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut growth projections for 2022-2023 citing global inflation, economic slowdown in China and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Still, the rate of inflation in the United States accelerated to 9.1 percent in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Inflation erodes the buying power of consumers, who in the United States are struggling to keep up with purchases of food, gas and other necessities.
While economists warn of a recession because of slowed economic growth, Biden administration officials argue the high rate of employment defies the definition of recession.
“We’re not going to be in a recession, in my view,” Biden told reporters this week during a virtual appearance at a White House event this week as he recovered from COVID-19.
Critics accuse the president and his White House aides of redefining “recession” as the economic forecasts call for a gloomy future with interest rates rising and stock market declines.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., laid the blame on the president, and sought to associate the misfortunes to “every Senate and House Democrat” who wants to follow a Biden-led spending spree and inflation “with massive new tax hikes.”
But even Democrats question the president’s leadership, due to the low approval ratings.
A University of New Hampshire poll this week found only 20 percent of that state’s voters, including 31 percent of Democratic voters, said he should run again in 2024.
Among New Hampshire Democrats, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg edged out Biden, 17 percent to 16 percent, as their first choice for a presidential candidate in 2024. The poll was conducted July 21 through July 25 and had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.
Overall, Biden’s approval ratings are very close to where Trump’s approval ratings were in New Hampshire at the same time of his presidency, said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
Still, Biden’s standing in national and state opinion polls point to potential problems for his party.
“President Biden is increasingly seen as an electoral liability for Democrats, both in the 2022 midterms and the presidential election,” Smith said.
Smith told the Review-Journal that the president’s low approval ratings could have an impact on the U.S. Senate and House races nationwide.
“History indicates Biden’s low approval ratings will hurt Democrats up and down the ticket in the 2022 midterms. Democrats are likely to lose 35 to 45 House seats alone,” Smith said.
“The intervening factor is that low approval ratings are an indication of low enthusiasm among Democratic voters, meaning they are less likely to show up to vote in November,” Smith said.
Jones, with Gallup, also said the president’s standing is a significant threat to the Democratic Party’s ability to hold their slim majorities in both chambers of Congress.
Some nonpartisan political analysts said Biden may not be a factor in some key Senate races, such as those in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where Republican candidates have foundered early.
The Senate race in Nevada, however, is considered competitive with incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto fending off Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, who pushed Trump’s baseless election fraud challenges in 2020.
Cortez Masto has made abortion rights and economic recovery from the pandemic in Nevada a focal point of her campaign for reelection, while Laxalt has zeroed in on inflation and economic woes under Biden and Democrats, who control the Senate and House.
Incumbent Democratic U.S. Reps. Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee face competitive challenges from Nevada Republicans Mark Robertson, Sam Peters and April Becker, respectively.
The GOP hopefuls also have made inflation and energy costs a top issue and blame economic policies of the Biden administration and congressional Democrats for hardships faced by families.
Potential bright spots
Congressional Democrats, though, are buoyed by two pieces of legislation expected to pass in both chambers that would provide subsidies to computer chip manufacturers in the United States to alleviate supply shortages that have driven up the cost of cars and other consumer goods.
The House and Senate passed the bill this week and Biden issued a statement saying he would sign it soon.
More important, Democrats are poised to push through legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for some prescription drugs, and extend subsidies for Affordable Care Act coverage for two years.
Reducing prescription drug prices would be a legislative accomplishment for many House Democrats who pledged to do just that in past campaigns.
Lee told a media call Wednesday that she campaigned on lowering prescription drug prices in 2018. The negotiated bill represents three decades of work to lower costs for seniors and those covered under Medicare.
“We’re so close to seeing this legislation passed,” Lee said. “It’s the first time in 30 years.”