Approval of Biden's job performance falls sharply, particularly among economy-minded Democrats

Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
October 19, 2022, 10:21 PM GMT+0

Over the past week, approval of Joe Biden's handling of the presidency fell significantly, particularly among Democrats and Independents, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll. While we can't say for certain why, the change may be tied to worsening views on the economy. The fall in approval also follows an increase the week before — meaning the change when comparing to the longer-term trend is less drastic than the one-week movement.

This week, Biden's net job approval fell 14 points, to -15 percentage points (39% approve of Biden's job performance, 54% disapprove) from -1 last week (45% approved, 46% disapproved). Two weeks ago, it was -6 (43%, 49%). The drop in approval this week from last week comes mostly from Democrats and Independents, rather than Republicans. This week, Biden's net approval among Democrats is +58, down 20 points from last week. Among Independents, Biden's net approval fell by 18 points to -32. Among Republicans, his net rating was unchanged at -78.

While low compared to last week, Biden's net approval reached even lower levels at times this summer. In July it went as low as -18 (37% approved, 55% disapproved).

Biden's net approval fell this week far more among Democrats who don't strongly identify with the party than among Democrats who do. His approval among the less committed Democrats was unusually high last week and this week's rating among them is partly a return toward where things stood before last week.

The impact of the economy

The dip in Biden's approval among Democrats is also concentrated among people who say at least one of the two economic issues polled of "inflation/prices" and "jobs and the economy" are "very important" issues to them. Over the past week, net approval of his job performance among this group of economy-focused Democrats fell 26 points, to +59 from +85. Among Democrats who say neither economic issue is very important to them, Biden's net approval fell only 1 point (to +58 from +59).

Approval of Biden's handling of the economy also has taken a hit this week. Net approval of his handling of jobs and the economy is -15, down 11 points from -4 last week. This decline is also more strongly concentrated among Democrats and Independents than among Republicans, though Republicans, too, have grown more negative about Biden's handling of economic issues.

More Democrats have turned negative about the state of the economy and the country. Last week, by 49% to 38%, Democrats felt the country was generally headed in the right direction. This week, as many disagree as agree: 41% say the country is headed in the right direction while 42% think it’s off on the wrong track.

More broadly, American perceptions of the state of the economy have worsened over the past week. The employment gains in another good jobs report nearly two weeks ago have faded in importance as the inflation rate remains high. Our latest poll shows that 60% of people think the economy is getting worse, up 8 points since last week. Nearly half – 48% – describe the current state of the economy as “poor,” up 7 points since last week.

In recent weeks, a majority of Americans have said they believe the country is in a recession, including 59% who say that this week. But this is the first week since we started asking the question in July that more than half of people believe the economy is shrinking — 54%, up 9 points from last week. Only 16% say the economy is growing.

This week more than one-third of Americans rank either inflation/prices or jobs and the economy as their most important issue: 37% say this now, up 7 points from a week ago.

Upcoming elections

Thinking about next month's election and its connection to 2024's may also play a role in Democrats' waning approval of Biden. Over the past week, his net approval rating fell 41 points among Democrats who say they don't want the current president to run again in 2024 (to +21 from +62). Among Democrats who do want him to run, there was virtually no change.

One factor that might minimize the damage Biden's falling approval inflicts on his party's immediate electoral prospects is that his drop in approval is concentrated mostly among people who are less likely to vote this November. Among Democrats who say they will definitely or probably vote, Biden's net approval fell 9 points from last week (to +75 from +84). Among Democrats who say they will maybe vote or definitely/probably won't vote, it fell 50 points (to +10 from +60). Democratic and Republican House candidates are essentially tied in share of registered voters planning to cast ballots for each next month — as they have been the last two weeks.

Looking at the broader picture of how Americans plan to vote in the upcoming Congressional elections, this week's poll shows 45% of registered voters saying they plan to vote for a Democratic candidate for the House, while 44% say they intend to vote for a Republican candidate. That's little changed from last week. Among likely voters, the Republican candidate leads, 47% to 46%.

In terms of who Americans intend to vote for, Democratic candidates beat out Republicans among the following groups of registered voters:

  • Black Americans (+61: 71% would vote for a Democratic candidate and 10% for a Republican)
  • 18- to 29-year-olds (+47: 67%, 20%)
  • Hispanic Americans (+10: 49%, 40%)
  • People with a college degree (+10: 51%, 41%)
  • Women (+9: 48%, 39%)
  • 30- to 44-year-olds (+6: 46%, 41%)

Republicans beat out Democrats among:

  • People who are 65 or older (+21: 56% would vote for a Republican candidate and 35% for a Democrat)
  • White Americans (+13: 52%, 39%)
  • Men (+9: 50%, 41%)
  • People without a college degree (+6: 47%, 41%)
  • 45- to 64-year-olds (+3: 46%, 43%)

Polling by the Economist/YouGov was conducted on October 16 - 18, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the Economist/YouGov methodology and data on politics/elections and the economy.

Image: Getty (Bill Pugliano/Stringer)