Biden Heads to First ‘State of the Union’ with Second Lowest Approval on Record
President Joe Biden gives his first State of the Union address at a time of international upheaval. Polling shows that Americans don’t trust Biden when it comes to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It’s the latest manifestation of how American satisfaction with Biden and the direction of the country have turned sharply negative since the last time Biden addressed a joint session of Congress last April.
Biden has one of the worst approval ratings going into his first inaugural address of any president in the polling era. And his decline seems to come from younger Americans and non-Democrats who once supported the Democratic president.
Biden’s current approval rating comes in at around 41%. His disapproval rating registers at 53% or 54%, depending on how you average the polls. That’s bad enough for a -12 or -13 point net approval rating.
When Biden spoke in front of Congress last April, his net approval rating was on the other side of the ledger. His net approval rating stood at +12 points.
The change in Biden’s has occurred largely because voters lack trust in him on the coronavirus pandemic and the economy. Biden’s net approval rating on the coronavirus stood at around +30 points 10 months ago. Today, it’s about -3 points.
Biden’s approval rating on the economy has likewise tanked. He had about a +12 point net approval rating at the end of April last year. Right now, Biden’s at around -20 points on the economy.
Biden’s -20 point net approval rating on the economy is the worst for any president since at least 1978 at the time of their first State of the Union.
Whenever you lose about 30 to 35 points of net approval ratings on the two biggest issues during the early part of your presidency, your overall popularity is bound to greatly suffer.
Biden’s low popularity going into his first State of the Union is unusual. The average net approval for elected presidents at their first state of the union has been +33 points in the polling era.
That said, the two worst before Biden belonged to the last two presidents: Barack Obama in 2010 and Donald Trump in 2018. Obama came in with a net approval rating of +3 points, while Trump’s was even lower than Biden’s at -17 points.
In this era of high polarization, it was likely going to be difficult for Biden to be as popular as presidents of yesteryear.
Biden, though, has lost a lot of support since the election. He won the national popular vote against Trump by 4.5 points in 2020.
A lot of that previous support has ebbed from non-Democrats. Our latest full CNN/SSRS poll asked respondents whether they approved or disapproved of Biden’s job performance and who they voted for in the 2020 election.
Pure independents and voters who lean or identify as Republicans make up 45% of those who voted for Biden but don’t currently approve of the job he is doing. They’re just 10% of those who approve of Biden and voted for him in 2020.
This isn’t to say Biden hasn’t lost support among voters who lean Democratic. His approval rating among them was 84% in our last poll, while 96% of them said they voted for Biden in the 2020 election.
It’s just that disproportionately he’s lost more support in the middle.
Perhaps counterintuitively, Biden’s also lost a disproportionate amount of support from younger Americans, who tend to lean more Democratic. Those younger than 45 make up 60% of the voters who say they cast a ballot for Biden in 2020 and don’t approve of the job he is doing. They’re only 33% of the voters who say they voted for Biden and approve of him.
Those younger than 45 said they voted for Biden by a 17-point margin. Biden’s net approval among 2020 voters in this group in this poll was nearly the inverse at -15 points. This is a 32-point difference.
Biden’s net approval among 2020 voters 45 and older was “only” 11 points lower (-14 points) than his margin with them in the election (-3 points).
Of course, it isn’t just that Americans are upset with Biden. They’re upset with how they view the country generally.
A mere 17% indicated they were satisfied with the way things are going in the country, per the latest Gallup poll on the topic.
Since Gallup started asking that question in 1979, there has never been a president giving their first State of the Union when a lower percentage of Americans were satisfied with how the country was going.
As with Biden’s approval rating, the level of satisfaction with the state of the country is down significantly from last April. Back then, 34% said they were satisfied.
Indeed, there were a number of polls indicating that a relatively high percentage of Americans thought the country was heading in the right direction. More Americans in July of last year said the country was going in the right direction than at any point since 2009.
The question going forward is whether Biden can recover any of that good will? As the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows, there are bound to be events that can disrupt the status quo. The bad news for Biden is that it’s not clear if anything will change the minds of the voters by the time his party faces voters in November’s midterms.