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Iowa Poll: 62% of Iowans disapprove of the job Joe Biden is doing as president

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© Copyright 2021, Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.

Fewer than one third of Iowans approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as president, a steep drop from earlier this year.

Thirty-one percent of Iowans approve of how Biden is handling his job, while 62% disapprove and 7% are not sure, according to the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

That’s a 12 percentage point drop in approval from June, the last time the question was asked. Biden's disapproval numbers jumped by 10 points during the same period. In June, 43% approved and 52% disapproved.

Biden’s job approval has not been in net positive territory in Iowa since March, when 47% of Iowans approved of his performance and 44% disapproved.

"This is a bad poll for Joe Biden, and it's playing out in everything that he touches right now,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer.

The partisan breakdown of the poll shows Biden has nearly no support from Republicans. Just 4% of Republicans say they approve of his job performance as president, while 95% disapprove. Among Democrats, that number is largely reversed, with 86% approving and 7% disapproving. A majority of political independents disapprove, at 62%, while 29% approve.

Biden's job approval rating is lower than former President Donald Trump's worst showing in the Iowa Poll. The former Republican president's worst job approval was 35% in December 2017. Other recent presidents' worst Iowa Poll results: Barack Obama, 36%, in February 2014, and George W. Bush, 25%, in September 2008.

The poll of 805 Iowa adults was conducted Sept. 12-15 by Selzer & Co. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Poll respondent: 'The way we exited Afghanistan was pretty sad'

This summer Biden oversaw the final U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Taliban quickly seized control of the country. As the country fell, the world watched thousands of Afghans, U.S. citizens and other allies flood the airport in Kabul, desperately seeking ways to leave the country.

Biden has defended the decision to end the 20-year war and pointed to the evacuation of more than 120,000 people from the airport. But his administration has acknowledged that about 100 American citizens remain in the country and want to leave.

Just 22% of Iowans approve of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan, while 69% disapprove and 8% are not sure — his worst rating out of several policy areas asked in the poll.

“The way we exited Afghanistan was pretty sad,” said poll respondent Brad Singleton, 45, a political independent and pastor from Montezuma who used to identify as a Republican. “Not the fact that we left Afghanistan, because we probably should have done that a long time ago, but just the way we did that it felt like Americans were abandoned and it felt like we just left equipment there.”

Biden’s handling of Afghanistan is the policy area where he has the least support from Democrats among a range of issues tested. Just 61% of self-identified Democrats approve of how he's handled the issue, while 25% disapprove. In contrast, 89% of Democrats approve of how he's handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

More: How are Iowa's members of Congress reacting to Biden, chaos in Afghanistan?

Kimala Peterson, a 62-year-old Democrat and poll respondent from Spencer, said she approves of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan and likes that the United States got out of the country. But she said she still feels it could have been handled better.

“The thing that probably disappoints me the most is I think with Afghanistan that maybe that could have been handled better with getting the Americans out and the people who helped us,” said Peterson, a retired library administrative assistant.

Others were just happy to see U.S. troops come home. Jesse Guerra, a 52-year-old poll respondent and political independent from Cedar Rapids, said the military “had no reason being there.”

“He said he was going to get them out, and he did,” he said. “As far as I know, that’s the one good thing he’s done.”

Biden’s COVID-19 approval drops steeply

Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which represented his highest area of approval in earlier polls, has sharply fallen.

Now, 36% of Iowans approve of the way Biden is handling the pandemic, while 60% disapprove and 4% are not sure. That's down 17 percentage points from 53% approval in June. Still, Biden’s handling of COVID-19 represents his highest approval rating on a policy issue tested.

The infectious delta variant has spurred a rise in COVID-19 cases in Iowa and around the country this summer, leading the federal government to step up its response to the virus.

Biden announced in September that businesses with more than 100 employees must ensure their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested for the disease weekly, a rule that could affect more than 80 million people nationwide.

More on the vaccine mandate:

Singleton, the political independent and a “reluctant” Trump voter last year, said the mandate “really upset me.”

“I think forcing people to inject something into their body isn’t the right way to handle it,” he said.

He said he thought the country was headed in the right direction with encouraging vaccinations, but he disagreed with the announcement of a mandate.

“Me, personally, I was hesitant to get the vaccine but I might have been swayed to do it,” he said. “But then when he said, ‘no, you have to,’ it just kind of steeled my resolve not to.”

Peterson, the Democratic poll respondent, said she appreciates Biden’s efforts to get the United States to achieve herd immunity.

“I like the fact that he is putting a mandate on some of the companies for over 100 employees having vaccines,” she said.

Even among those who have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, only 50% approve of Biden's handling of the pandemic, while 46% disapprove. Among those who are unvaccinated and don't plan to be, 4% approve of Biden's approach to COVID-19 and 93% disapprove.

In past polls, Biden’s pandemic response drew some support from Republicans. He earned 26% approval from Republicans in March and 20% in June. But in the September poll, just 5% of Republicans say they approve of his handling of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the only policy issue tested on which Biden receives the approval of more than one-third of Iowans.

On the economy, 32% of Iowans approve and 62% disapprove; on criminal justice, 28% approve and 54% disapprove; and on immigration, 25% approve and 67% disapprove.

Biden’s favorability continues to decline

Biden’s favorability has also declined from June. Now, 37% say they feel very favorable or mostly favorable toward Biden, while 61% say they feel mostly unfavorable or very unfavorable. Just 2% are not sure.

Those numbers are driven by extremes.

The percentage of Iowans who say they feel very favorable toward Biden dropped 10 percentage points from June, going from 21% to 11%. Meanwhile, the percentage of those who say they feel very unfavorable jumped by 11 percentage points, from 37% in June to 48% in September.

It’s the worst favorability rating Biden has had in Iowa since December 2013, when he was vice president. Then, 36% said they felt favorable toward him and 57% said they felt unfavorable.

Iowans are also more likely to say things in the nation have gotten off on the wrong track than they were earlier this year. That number is at 70%, compared to 59% in June. The percentage of Iowans who say things are headed in the right direction has also dropped by 10 points, from 31% in June to 21% in the latest poll.

Those numbers show a clear partisan divide. Just 4% of Republicans say the nation is headed in the right direction, compared to 58% of Democrats and 18% of independents. And 94% of Republicans say things are on the wrong track, compared to 30% of Democrats and 70% of independents.

About this poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted September 12-15, 2021, for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 805 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Dynata. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age, sex and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent American Community Survey estimates.

Questions based on the sample of 805 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Questions based on the subsample of 620 likely voters in the 2022 midterm election have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points or 3.9 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to the Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.

Dive into more details of the latest Iowa Poll

Ames Tribune reporter Isabella Rosario contributed to this article.

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at sgrubermil@registermedia.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Joe Biden’s job approval plunges after Afghanistan exit, COVID surge

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