Biden’s approval sinks to lowest level so far

Seven-in-10 Americans express low confidence in President Joe Biden’s ability to deal with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Biden lauds resolve of Ukrainians after visit with refugees
Biden lauds resolve of Ukrainians after visit with refugees(MGN/Cropped Joe Biden / Twitter)
Published: Mar. 27, 2022 at 10:18 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (NBC) - Amid Europe’s largest land war since World War II, seven-in-10 Americans express low confidence in President Joe Biden’s ability to deal with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and eight-in-10 worry that the war will increase gas prices and possibly involve nuclear weapons.

And during the nation’s largest inflation spike in 40 years, overwhelming majorities believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy.

Those are some of the major findings of a brand-new national NBC News poll, which all have contributed to Biden’s overall job rating in the survey declining to the lowest level of his presidency – at 40 percent – as well as Republicans enjoying a 2-point lead in congressional preference ahead of November’s midterm elections.

“What this poll says is that President Biden and Democrats are headed for a catastrophic election,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinions Strategy, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates.

The poll was conducted March 18-22 – so before the president traveled overseas to meet with NATO allies, visit with U.S. troops in Poland and deliver a major speech on the war in Ukraine.

“Who is going to prevail? Are democracies going to prevail on the values we share?  Or are autocracies going to prevail?  And that’s really what’s at stake,” Biden said on Friday in Poland.

And the survey does contain silver linings for Biden and Democrats, including an increase in those approving of the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and nearly 80 percent of Americans agreeing with his decision to ban Russian oil, even if it causes higher gas prices.

But what stands out in the poll is that the American public hasn’t rallied around Biden with the war in Europe, said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.

“One thing that has not happened – at least yet – Is a rally around the flag reaction with Joe Biden’s job rating increasing. The potential for that to occur could still happen if America becomes more directly involved, but at this stage it is not there.”

Biden’s job rating among all adults stands at 40 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove – the lowest mark of his presidency in the NBC News poll, though the movement is within the poll’s margin of error.

In January, his overall rating stood at 43 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove.

The erosion in Biden’s approval has been across the board among key demographic groups, including Black respondents (from 64 percent approve in January to 62 percent now), women (from 51 percent to 44 percent), Latinos (from 48 percent to 39 percent), and independents (36 percent to 32 percent).

“You cannot get down to the low 40s in presidential approval, unless you have strained your own base,” said McInturff, the GOP pollster.

Seventy-one percent of Americans believe the nation is headed on the wrong track, versus 22 percent who think it’s headed in the right direction, which is unchanged from January’s poll.

And on the issues, 51 percent of adults approve of Biden’s handling of the coronavirus (up 7 points from January), 42 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy (up 5 points), but only a third – 33 percent – approve of Biden’s handling of the economy (down 5 points).

Cost of living jumps to Americans’ top issue

The decline in Biden’s economic handling comes as the cost of living has jumped to Americans’ most important issue in the poll, displacing jobs and the economy, voting rights/election integrity and the coronavirus, which all topped January’s survey.

Sixty-two percent of respondents say their family income is falling behind the cost of living; 31 percent say they’re staying even; and just 6 percent say their income is going up faster than the cost of living.

Asked whom or what they blame the most for inflation increasing, a plurality of Americans – 38 percent – point the finger at President Biden and his policies, though Republican respondents make up the bulk of those with that opinion.

Another 28 percent blame the Covid pandemic the most, 23 percent attribute it to corporations that have increased prices and 6 percent blame the rising costs of goods and services on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

And asked which one issue – reducing inflation and improving the economy, or working to end the war in Ukraine – should be President Biden’s top priority, 68 percent pick inflation/economy, versus 29 percent who pick the war in Ukraine.

Concerns about the war in Ukraine

Still, the NBC News poll finds plenty of Americans worried about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Eighty-three percent say they’re concerned about the war increasing the costs of goods and services like gasoline; 82 percent say they’re concerned that the war will involve nuclear weapons; and 74 percent say they’re concerned the U.S. will send American combat troops to fight in Ukraine.

A combined 57 percent of respondents believe the United States is already at war with Russia (16 percent), or that it will be within the next year (41 percent).

Just 28 percent in the poll say they have either a “great deal” (12 percent) or “quite a bit” (16 percent) of confidence in President Biden’s ability to respond to the war between Russia and Ukraine and manage the crisis.

That’s compared with a combined 71 percent who have “just some” (27 percent) or “very little” (44 percent) confidence in Biden – including 43 percent Democrats who say they have just some (36 percent) or very little (7 percent) confidence.

“Americans were looking for greater certainty and stability after the 2020 election. Whether it is at home or abroad, these expectations have not been met,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.

The midterms

Finally, when it comes to November’s midterm elections, the NBC News poll shows 46 percent of registered voters preferring a Republican-controlled Congress, versus 44 percent who want Democrats in charge.

That 2-point GOP lead – within the poll’s margin of error – is the first time Republicans have held the advantage on this question since 2014.

The NBC News poll was conducted March 18-22 of 1,000 adults – 750 of who were reached by cell phone – and has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

The margin of error for the poll’s 790 registered voters is plus-minus 3.49 percentage points.

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