With the country gripped by a pervasive sense of pessimism, the president is hemorrhaging support.
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This article is part of our Midterms 2022 Daily Briefing
President Biden is facing an alarming level of doubt from inside his own party, with 64 percent of Democratic voters saying they would prefer a new standard-bearer in the 2024 presidential campaign, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll, as voters nationwide have soured on his leadership, giving him a meager 33 percent job-approval rating.
Widespread concerns about the economy and inflation have helped turn the national mood decidedly dark, both on Mr. Biden and the trajectory of the nation. More than three-quarters of registered voters see the United States moving in the wrong direction, a pervasive sense of pessimism that spans every corner of the country, every age range and racial group, cities, suburbs and rural areas, as well as both political parties.
Only 13 percent of American voters said the nation was on the right track — the lowest point in Times polling since the depths of the financial crisis more than a decade ago.
Do you think the United States is on the right track, or is it headed in the wrong direction?
Note: Polls prior to 2020 are Times/CBS surveys of U.S. adults, with the wording “Do you feel things in this country are generally going in the right direction or do you feel things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?”
Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 849 registered voters in the United States from July 5-7, 2022.
By Marco Hernandez
For Mr. Biden, that bleak national outlook has pushed his job approval rating to a perilously low point. Republican opposition is predictably overwhelming, but more than two-thirds of independents also now disapprove of the president’s performance, and nearly half disapprove strongly. Among fellow Democrats his approval rating stands at 70 percent, a relatively low figure for a president, especially heading into the 2022 midterms when Mr. Biden needs to rally Democrats to the polls to maintain control of Congress.
In a sign of deep vulnerability and of unease among what is supposed to be his political base, only 26 percent of Democratic voters said the party should renominate him in 2024.
Mr. Biden has said repeatedly that he intends to run for re-election in 2024. At 79, he is already the oldest president in American history, and concerns about his age ranked at the top of the list for Democratic voters who want the party to find an alternative.
The backlash against Mr. Biden and desire to move in a new direction were particularly acute among younger voters. In the survey, 94 percent of Democrats under the age of 30 said they would prefer a different presidential nominee.
“I’m just going to come out and say it: I want younger blood,” said Nicole Farrier, a 38-year-old preschool teacher in East Tawas, a small town in northern Michigan. “I am so tired of all old people running our country. I don’t want someone knocking on death’s door.”
Ms. Farrier, a Democrat who voted for Mr. Biden in 2020, said she had hoped he might have been able to do more to heal the nation’s divisions, but now, as a single mother, she is preoccupied with what she described as crippling increases in her cost of living. “I went from living a comfortable lifestyle to I can’t afford anything anymore,” she said.
What’s the most important reason you would prefer someone other than Joe Biden to be the Democratic Party’s 2024 presidential nominee?
Asked of 191 respondents who said they planned to vote in the 2024 Democratic primary and who preferred a candidate other than Joe Biden in a New York Times/Siena College poll from July 5-7, 2022.
By The New York Times
Jobs and the economy were the most important problem facing the country according to 20 percent of voters, with inflation and the cost of living (15 percent) close behind as prices are rising at the fastest rate in a generation. One in 10 voters named the state of American democracy and political division as the most pressing issue, about the same share who named gun policies, after several high-profile mass shootings.
More than 75 percent of voters in the poll said the economy was “extremely important” to them. And yet only 1 percent rated economic conditions as excellent. Among those who are typically working age — voters 18 to 64 years old — only 6 percent said the economy was good or excellent, while 93 percent rated it poor or only fair.
The White House has tried to trumpet strong job growth, including on Friday when Mr. Biden declared that he had overseen “the fastest and strongest jobs recovery in American history.” But the Times/Siena poll showed a vast disconnect between those boasts, and the strength of some economic indicators, and the financial reality that most Americans feel they are confronting.
“We used to spend $200 a week just going out to have fun, or going and buying extra groceries if we needed it, and now we can’t even do that,” said Kelly King, a former factory worker in Greensburg, Ind., who is currently sidelined because of a back injury. “We’re barely able to buy what we need.”
Ms. King, 38, said she didn’t know if Mr. Biden was necessarily to blame for the spiking prices of gas and groceries but felt he should be doing more to help. “I feel like he hasn’t really spoken much about it,” Ms. King said. “He hasn’t done what I think he’s capable of doing as president to help the American people. As a Democrat, I figured he would really be on our side and put us back on the right track. And I just feel like he’s not.”
Now, she said, she is hoping Republicans take over Congress in November to course-correct.
One glimmer of good news for Mr. Biden is that the survey showed him with a narrow edge in a hypothetical rematch in 2024 with former President Donald J. Trump: 44 percent to 41 percent.
The result is a reminder of one of Mr. Biden’s favorite aphorisms: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.” The poll showed that Democratic misgivings about Mr. Biden seemed to mostly melt away when presented with a choice between him and Mr. Trump: 92 percent of Democrats said they would stick with Mr. Biden.
Randain Wright, a 41-year-old truck driver in Ocean Township, N.J., is typical of these voters. He said he talked frequently with friends about Mr. Biden’s shortcomings. “He’s just not aggressive enough in getting his agenda done,” Mr. Wright lamented. In contrast, he said, “Trump wasn’t afraid to get his people in line.”
But while he would prefer a different nominee in 2024, Mr. Wright said he still wouldn’t consider voting Republican in 2024 if faced with a Biden-Trump rematch.
On the whole, voters appeared to like Mr. Biden more than they like his performance as president, with 39 percent saying they have a favorable impression of him — six percentage points higher than his job approval.
In saying they wanted a different nominee in 2024, Democrats cited a variety of reasons, with the most in an open-ended question citing his age (33 percent), followed closely by unhappiness with how he is doing the job. About one in eight Democrats just said that they wanted someone new, and one in 10 said he was not progressive enough. Smaller fractions expressed doubts about his ability to win and his mental acuity.
The Times/Siena survey of 849 registered voters nationwide was conducted from July 5 to 7, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion, which had been protected for half a century. The ruling sent Democrats into the streets and unleashed an outpouring of political contributions.
Typically, voters aligned with the party in power — Democrats now hold the House, the Senate and the White House — are more upbeat about the nation’s direction. But only 27 percent of Democrats saw the country as on the right track. And with the fall of Roe, there was a notable gender gap among Democrats: Only 20 percent of Democratic women said the country was moving in the right direction, compared with 39 percent of Democratic men.
Overall, abortion rated as the most important issue for 5 percent of voters: 1 percent of men, 9 percent of women.
Gun policies, following mass shootings in Buffalo, the Texas town of Uvalde and elsewhere, and the Supreme Court’s June 23 ruling striking down a New York law that placed strict limits on carrying guns outside the home, were ranked as the top issue by 10 percent of voters — far higher than has been typical of nationwide polls in recent years. The issue was of even greater importance to Black and Hispanic voters, ranking roughly the same as inflation and the cost of living, the survey found.
The coronavirus pandemic, which so thoroughly disrupted life at the end of the Trump administration and over the first year of Mr. Biden’s presidency, has largely receded from voters’ minds, the survey found. In an open-ended question, fewer than one percent of voters named the virus as the nation’s most important problem.
When Mr. Biden won in 2020, he made a point of trying to make inroads among working-class white voters who had abandoned the Democratic Party in droves in the Trump era. But whatever crossover appeal Mr. Biden once had appears diminished. His job approval rating among white voters without college degrees was a stark 20 percent.
John Waldron, a 69-year-old registered Republican and retired machinist in Schenectady, N.Y., voted for Mr. Biden in 2020. Today, he said, he regrets it and plans to vote Republican in 2024. “I thought he was going to do something for this country, but now he’s doing nothing,” Mr. Waldron said.
Like others, he expressed worries about Mr. Biden’s age and verbal flubs. On Friday, a clip of Mr. Biden at an event announcing an executive order on abortion went viral when he stumbled into saying “terminate the presidency” instead of “pregnancy,” for instance.
“You ever see him on TV?” Mr. Waldron said, comparing the president to zombies. “That’s what he looks like.”
Mr. Biden’s base, in 2020 and now, remains Black voters. They delivered the president a 62 percent job-approval rating — higher marks than any other race or ethnicity, age group or education level. But even among that constituency, there are serious signs of weakening. On the question of renominating Mr. Biden in 2024, slightly more Black Democratic voters said they wanted a different candidate than said they preferred Mr. Biden.
“Anybody could be doing a better job than what they’re doing right now,” said Clifton Heard, a 44-year-old maintenance specialist in Foley, Ala.
An independent, he said he voted for Mr. Biden in 2020 but is disillusioned over the state of the economy and the spiraling price of gas, and is now reconsidering Mr. Trump.
“I understand that they’ve got a tough job,” he said of Mr. Biden’s administration. “He wasn’t prepared to do the job.”
The Times/Siena nationwide survey was conducted by telephone using live operators. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Cross-tabs and methodology are available here.
Alyce McFadden contributed reporting.