The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Biden’s continued — and marked — decline with Democrats

President Biden salutes while boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on July 20. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

It has become abundantly clear in recent days that Democrats would like to turn the page on President Biden in 2024. A New York Times-Siena College poll showed they preferred “someone else” to Biden as their nominee by a historically unusual 64-to-26 percent margin. And a new Quinnipiac University poll confirms it: Just 40 percent of Democrats want Biden to run at all; a majority don’t.

What undergirds it? Surely, some piece of this involves age. Fully 94 percent of Democrats under 30 years old preferred “someone else” in the Times poll. And some Democrats might believe, on a strictly pragmatic level, that Biden isn’t their strongest potential hopeful.

(It’s undoubtedly true that voters like the idea of unnamed hypothetical candidates they can idealize. But other polls have shown Biden’s vote share well shy of a majority in a crowded field of actual candidates.)

But part of it is also a very real degree of Democratic disillusionment with both Biden’s performance and the state of affairs on his watch. They don’t hate Biden, but they don’t love him, either, and they don’t see the results they had hoped for. And that’s borne out if you dig a little deeper into recent polls.

We wrote last month about Biden’s distinct lack of a base. In four separate polls at the time, the number who “strongly approved” of Biden was between 1 in 8 Americans and 1 in 6 Americans. About three times as many Americans strongly disapproved of him. The only time that’s happened in recent political history was the waning days of George W. Bush’s tenure, when he was even more unpopular than Biden is today.

New polls from Quinnipiac and CNN bear this out — and show just how much Biden has declined with this base.

The CNN poll shows Biden’s recent further decline in popularity — he’s at 38 percent overall in the poll — is solely attributable to Democrats. They slid from 86 percent approving to 73 percent over the past two months, while independents and Republicans remained largely static.

The decline is more evident if you focus, as we did before, on strong approval.

In the CNN poll, just 28 percent of Democrats strongly approve of Biden. That’s down from a high of 67 percent in April 2021. In the Quinnipiac poll, slightly more strongly approve — 38 percent — but that’s down from 77 percent a month into Biden’s presidency and down from 58 percent in November.

Biden’s base numbers on the economy have also slid markedly. Fully 85 percent of Democrats approved of his handling of that issue in November in the Quinnipiac poll; that’s now 66 percent. In the CNN poll, his economic approval among Democrats has steadily slid down to 60 percent.

The CNN poll also features some other striking findings:

  • In April 2021, 90 percent of Democrats said Biden had the “right priorities” as president, versus 9 percent who said he had not “paid enough attention to the country’s most important problems.” That latter number has now risen to 42 percent. Fully 4 in 10 Democrats say Biden isn’t even focused on the right things. (The Quinnipiac poll shows gun violence is the issue the most Democrats rank as their No. 1 priority, with 22 percent citing it, followed by inflation, climate change, abortion and election laws all clustered closely together.)
  • 62 percent of Democrats say things in this country are going at least “pretty badly” — up from 37 percent in December.
  • Just 32 percent of Democrats view economic conditions as at least “somewhat good” — down from 62 percent in December.
  • 56 percent of Democrats think we’re currently in a recession (which we might be)

This latter trio of measures aren’t about Biden. But generally speaking, a president’s base will have a significantly rosier view of things like economic conditions. Clear majorities of Democrats view things as being bad and even that we’re in a recession on Biden’s watch. Everything undoubtedly flows from there.

Indeed, the people most inclined to give Biden the benefit of the doubt and to see the good in his presidency are struggling to do so. And it should thus be no surprise they’re entertaining alternatives for when he’s up for reelection.

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