UMass Amherst Poll Details Increasing Dissatisfaction With President Biden’s First Year in Office

President Joe Biden. Photo: Gage Skidmore (Flckr.com). (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Source: UMass News and Media

One year into his term in office, President Joe Biden is seeing his approval decline and nearly two-thirds of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, according to the results of a recent University of Massachusetts Amherst poll released today.

The nationwide poll of 1,000 respondents found 53% of respondents disapprove of the president’s performance and 41% approve of the job Biden has done so far. More than half (55%) also say he has fallen short of their expectations, while 45% say his presidency has met (36%) or exceeded (9%) expectations. An April UMass Amherst Poll conducted following the president’s first 100 days in office had found much more positive numbers for Biden, with 51% approving his early performance and 44% disapproving, and with 64% saying he had met or exceeded expectations and 36% saying he had fallen short.

“The honeymoon is officially over – as the nation inches closer to marking a year of the Biden presidency, a minority of voters approve of the job that Joe Biden has done as president,” says Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll. “With the surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, a problematic withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, and in the midst of rapid inflation, it is no surprise that President Biden’s approval ratings have declined in the first year of his presidency. The question as we look ahead to the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election is whether he will be able to right the ship and regain the approval of the American public.”

Looking at Biden’s base of support, Raymond La Raja, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll, points out that while 75% of liberals approve of Biden’s performance so far, only 24% of independents and just 5% of Republicans do so.

“Progressives seem demoralized, while independents are repelled by Washington infighting,” he says. “Meanwhile, Republicans are dead set against Biden and the Democratic Congress. But the biggest supporters of Biden continue to be African-Americans, with a 68% approval of the president, almost twice as high as for whites (35%).”

One of the factors driving the decline in Biden’s approval is Americans’ view on the current economy, as the number of respondents stating that the current state of the national economy is “poor” has doubled since April, from 21% to a plurality of 41%. One-quarter of respondents indicated the economy is “good” (21%) or “excellent” (4%), while 35% say it is “fair.”

The economy was the issue poll respondents said Biden has handled most poorly, with 58% saying he has handled it “not too well” (14%) or “not well at all” (44%). Just over one-third (35%) say that he’s handled the economy “somewhat well” (24%) or “very well” (11%).

Respondents have a more positive view of their own economic situations, however, as 42% say their personal situation is “excellent” (7%) or “good” (35%), while 39% say it’s “fair” and 20% say it is “poor.” These numbers are also down from April, when 48% said their economic situation was “excellent” (8%) or “good” (40%), 37% said “fair” and 14% indicated their economic situation was poor.

“On the Wrong Track”

Overall, 64% of those polled said the country is on the wrong track, with only 21% saying the U.S. is heading in the right direction, a 10-point shift from April (31% right direction, 54% wrong track).

“The ongoing pandemic has created greater uncertainty and frustration for Americans. We seem to be in a funk, and it is affecting perceptions of Biden’s performance and the state of the country,” La Raja says.

“A combination of things beyond a president’s control, bad press and an inability to claim credit effectively for accomplishments has produced lackluster approval numbers for President Biden a year into his administration,” says Alexander Theodoridis, associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “The best thing about these numbers for Joe Biden is that Election 2024 is nearly three years away.”

The issue on which Biden polls best – although he is still underwater on it – is his handling of the COVID pandemic; 46% say he is handling the pandemic well, while 50% say he is not. The next closest issue he’s rated on is his handling of transportation and infrastructure, with 41% saying he has handled it well 49% saying that he has not. More than half of respondents say he has not handled the other issues polled well: domestic policy (34-53), climate change (33-52) and taxes (30-55).

Respondents also indicate a growing unease regarding various domestic and international relations during Biden’s presidency. More than half (53%) say relations between Democrats and Republicans have worsened, while pluralities say race relations (42%), relations between the U.S. and its foreign allies (42%) and relations between the U.S. and its foreign adversaries (45%) have worsened under the president’s watch.

“Given how polarized our country is, President Biden was never going to enjoy broad support among Republicans,” says Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “Meanwhile, many Democrats seem frustrated by the pandemic, inflation and perceptions of legislative stalemate. It all adds up to a perfect storm of low approval ratings for the president. His and congressional Democrats’ inability to come through on big promises relating to social spending and climate change may well have played an important role.”

Nteta adds, “Biden promised the American public that he would heal the divides left in the wake of the Trump administration, but for many Americans, his time in office has done little to address the problems of race relations, partisan polarization or the nation’s standing in the world. If he wants another term in office, he will need to work harder to bridge these divides and to improve America’s foreign relations.”

Congress fares even worse

While the poll’s respondents expressed their displeasure with the executive branch, they also indicated overall disapproval of the other branches of the federal government as well. Just over half (51%) of those polled disapprove of the job being done by the Supreme Court, while nearly two-thirds (65%) disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job.

“Things are not looking up for Congress,” Nteta says, “as a paltry 18% of Americans approve of the job that they are doing, down from 30% who expressed approval in April. Americans across demographic and ideological divides all disapprove of the job that Congress has done in 2021. Even self-identified Democrats have problems with the Democratic-controlled Congress, as only one-in-three Democrats express approval of the job that they are doing. They had better improve their approval numbers or risk voters ‘throwing the bums out’ this November.”

“While Americans express frustration with Biden, he may take some solace in the fact that at least he is not as unpopular as Congress is,” Rhodes says.

The margin of error within this poll is 3.1%. 

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll

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