The White House spent much of the summer promoting its economic agenda, dubbed ‘Bidenomics,’ but the effort doesn’t seem to be helping President Joe Biden with American voters. According to a new poll released by CNN Thursday, 58% of Americans think Biden’s policies have made economic conditions worse in the U.S., and only 24% think the policies have made things better. That’s the worst result for Biden on that question since he took office, with the negative assessment increasing by 8 points since last fall.
Biden’s overall rating isn’t doing much better. The president’s approval rating was just 39% in the poll, the second-lowest reading since he took office in early 2021. (The only lower rating in the CNN poll was in the summer of 2022, when he clocked in at 38%. The most recent poll was conducted by SSRS from August 25 to 31, 2023, drawing on a representative sample of 1,503 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 points.)
The fact that Biden is now 80 appears to be a major factor in his lackluster ratings. Asked about their biggest concern about the president, the largest portion of respondents by far (49%) cited his age. Nearly three-quarters (73%) said they are “seriously concerned” about his level of physical and mental competence, and 68% said they have questions about his ability to understand the concerns of younger generations.
While the results varied predictably according to party affiliation, with Republicans voicing less support for the president than Democrats, a significant number of Democrats offered critical opinions. Fifty-six percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they are concerned about Biden’s physical and mental competence, 60% said they are worried about his ability to win in 2024, and 62% said they are worried about his ability to serve out a full second term. About two-thirds of Democrats say they would like to see someone other than Biden as the party’s nominee – an increase of 13 points on that question since March.
The poll also asked respondents for their opinions on potential matchups between Biden and the Republicans vying for the 2024 GOP nomination – and again the White House got some bad news. Former South Carolina governor and Trump administration cabinet official Nikki Haley beat Biden in a head-to-head matchup, 49% to 43%. The current president was in a statistical tie with all the other major candidates, including former president Donald Trump (47% to 46%) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (47%-47%).
Biden allies react: The poll results are raising alarms among some Democratic officials. “These numbers are not good, and they’re consistent with most of the other polling that we’ve seen,” David Axelrod, a former strategist for Barack Obama, told CNN. “The country is in a sour mood. He’s not getting credit for what I think is a fairly substantial list of achievements.”
Axelrod added that the road ahead could be difficult. “And the reality is, if this were a referendum, he would be in deep, deep trouble,” he said. “There’s an expression in sports that, you know, sometimes you have to win ugly. And I think that’s what lies ahead here for this president and this White House.”
Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s former communications director, pointed out that the election is still a long way away. “The Biden White House is not going to is not going to be rattled by this because their view is there are going to be 500 polls between now and Election Day,” she told CNN. “[I]t’s on the Biden campaign to make this election a choice and to make it about the contrast between what Republicans are offering and what Biden is offering.”