Joe Biden’s approval slumps coast-to-coast as concerns rise about performance, fitness
President Biden has negative approval ratings in 40 states including key midterm battlegrounds, according to a new analysis, losing ground with Democrats, young voters and independents while looking as befuddled as ever.
The president is underwater by double digits in 33 states, including some that were key to his 2020 victory such as Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia, in the Morning Consult Political Intelligence quarterly tracking report released Tuesday.
Mr. Biden has job-approval ratings that are higher than his disapproval ratings in only 10 states and the District of Columbia, and is barely above water even in his home state of Delaware.
The report comes amid a fresh series of public gaffes and confused moments by the 79-year-old president, while surveys show voters increasingly expressing doubts about Mr. Biden’s mental fitness for office and rating him as a weak leader.
On a visit to New Hampshire last week, for example, Mr. Biden said airline passengers should decide for themselves whether they want to wear masks, hours after the White House said it was recommending that people still wear masks in spite of a court ruling that rescinded the federal mask mandate. The administration eventually appealed the ruling.
A few days later at the White House, Mr. Biden responded to a reporter’s question about his plans to lift a pandemic border-enforcement measure known as Title 42 by confusing it with the mask mandate. This time, the president issued a clarification under his own name.
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Democrats are turning away from Mr. Biden in significant numbers that expose what the Morning Consult report called an “age divide.” In New Hampshire, Mr. Biden’s approval rating among Democrats has fallen from 93% to 78% in the past year, driven by a 29-point drop among voters under age 45.
“A similar effect was observed, albeit to a smaller degree, in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Nevada,” the report said of the president’s age divide.
Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, said the president’s approval ratings are “terrible.” But he doesn’t believe Mr. Biden’s age or confused moments explain the declining support among younger voters in particular.
“When these gaffes are made and the White House has to correct the record … that probably doesn’t help for any age group,” he said in an interview. “I think it doesn’t feel ‘strong.’ Part of this [lost support] is that liberal, extremely liberal voters are also unhappy. The point is, he’s lost people on the left and people in the middle.”
Questions about Mr. Biden’s age dogged him during the 2020 campaign, and such questions are resurfacing in office with each new misstep or awkward moment. If reelected in 2024, Mr. Biden would be 86 by the end of his second term.
At the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House, the president was mocked after a staffer in an Easter Bunny costume appeared to stop Mr. Biden from answering a reporter’s questions about Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“This White House needs the EASTER BUNNY to intercept Biden before he has a chance to answer a question,” tweeted Rep. Ronny Jackson, Texas Republican, a former White House physician and ally of former President Trump.
“He IS NOT ok. They’re hiding something BIG about his cognitive decline, and they’re going to EVERY length to cover it up!” he wrote.
White House officials insist that Mr. Biden is still on top of his game.
“He’s definitely in better shape than I am, that’s for sure,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, 60, said last month in an interview with philanthropist David Rubenstein on Bloomberg TV.
“He’s very fit. He works out almost every day in the morning, before he comes down to the Oval Office,” Mr. Klain said.
Asked how he deals with Mr. Biden being the nation’s oldest president, Mr. Klain noted that Mr. Biden held a nearly two-hour-long press conference at the White House in mid-January.
“We took questions from all kinds of reporters. So I think his fitness, his vigor, is beyond question,” Mr. Klain said. “People see him on the job every day. What they see is a person who’s fully capable of doing the job, fully vigorous, and great mental and physical health, and taking on the burdens of the office and executing them well.”
Polls don’t bear out Mr. Klain’s assertions about what people see.
For example, an ABC News-Washington Post poll in February found that 40% of voters think Mr. Biden has the mental sharpness needed to serve effectively, down 11 percentage points from a year earlier. A majority of respondents, 54%, said the president doesn’t have the required mental sharpness.
In a New Hampshire Journal poll this month, respondents were asked whether they thought Mr. Biden was “physically and mentally up to the job” if there’s a crisis. A majority, 54%, responded “not very/not at all,” while 42% answered “very/somewhat.”
Mr. Levesque said the president’s popularity is declining primarily because the White House hasn’t adequately explained to voters major economic issues such as inflation and shortages of consumer goods.
“When gas prices have been going up for the year that we’ve been in the Biden administration, particularly after the Keystone Pipeline decision, and all of a sudden have [Mr. Biden] say this is the ‘Putin gas tax’ … it’s not dishonesty, per se, but it’s not being honest,” the pollster said.
“Inflation is being blamed on supply chain problems. Maybe there’s some evidence to that, but also, the fact that several trillion dollars was approved by [Democrats] during COVID to try to stem off Armageddon, and it has instead really fired up the economy and that’s why we have this inflation. I think the White House is not honest about these issues, and I think it sort of turns people off,” Mr. Levesque said.
On Monday, Mr. Biden hosted the Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning on the South Lawn of the White House. As he praised the players’ success, the president noted that captain Steve Stamkos has led the team for 14 seasons.
Mr. Biden seemed astonished at the statistic, and turned to the captain, who was standing behind him.
“Fourteen seasons?” Mr. Biden asked.
“Yep,” the player responded.
“You’re getting old,” Mr. Biden said to laughter. Then he addressed the audience again with a grin:
“I don’t know. I gotta get some advice from Steve about this.”