• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Poll: Ahead of State of the Union, 61% of Americans say Biden hasn't kept most of his promises

·West Coast Correspondent
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

As President Biden prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that a combination of Republican rancor and Democratic disappointment has left his approval rating languishing near an all-time low after a tumultuous first year in office.

The survey of 1,532 U.S. adults, which was conducted online from Feb. 24 to 27, found that just 41 percent of them now approve of how Biden is handling his job — a number that has hovered between 38 and 42 percent since December — while a majority (53 percent) disapprove.

More than 6 in 10 Americans, meanwhile, say Biden has not kept most of his promises.

Joe Biden
President Biden at the White House on Monday. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Biden’s approval rating peaked last April at 54 percent, amid falling COVID-19 numbers and rising economic growth. But since then it has steadily deteriorated, as two new coronavirus variants sapped early pandemic optimism; a messy military exit from Afghanistan raised questions about Biden’s leadership; an ambitious Democratic agenda stalled in Congress; and climbing inflation hit Americans in the pocketbook.

Today, less than 40 percent of the public approves of Biden’s handling of nearly every major issue: race (39 percent); schools (38 percent); climate change (38 percent); the economy (36 percent); foreign policy (36 percent); crime (33 percent); and immigration (33 percent). The only issue on which the president clears 40 percent is COVID-19 — and even there, more Americans disapprove (47 percent) than approve (44 percent).

Americans were split last April, after Biden’s first 100 days in office, about whether the president had kept “all” or “most” of his promises (42 percent) or just “some” or “none” (40 percent). Now far fewer say he has kept all or most of his promises (21 percent); far more say he has kept some or none (61 percent).

Likewise, 39 percent of Americans said last April that Biden had been performing better than they expected, while just 28 percent said he had been performing worse than they expected. Now only 15 percent say the former — and 38 percent say the latter.

Given America’s intense polarization, Republicans have been largely opposed to Biden from the start. This “negative partisanship” — the tendency of some voters to form their political opinions primarily in opposition to parties they dislike — is perhaps most evident in GOP attitudes about the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Activists urge President Biden to not compromise on election promises regarding climate change, health care, jobs and social justice
Activists in May 2021 urge President Biden not to compromise on election promises regarding climate change, health care, jobs and social justice. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Green New Deal Network)

According to the new poll, Republicans are significantly less likely than Democrats to support tough responses to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, including “severe economic sanctions” (62 percent for Democrats vs. 49 percent for Republicans); sending “arms to Ukraine to use in its own defense” (46 percent vs. 35 percent); sending “troops to the region to bolster defenses, but not Ukraine” (31 percent vs. 19 percent); or “sending troops to the region to bolster defenses, including to Ukraine” (24 percent vs. 17 percent).

Yet despite their relative reluctance to support tougher measures against Putin, Republicans (58 percent) are also significantly more likely than Democrats (25 percent) to say Biden’s response has not been “tough enough” — a seeming contradiction.

Similarly, 68 percent of 2020 Donald Trump voters agree with Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz that “Europe is on the verge of war because of the weakness, the fecklessness of Joe Biden,” and more say Putin is “doing a better job” than Biden “leading his country” (47 percent) than say either Biden (3 percent) or “neither” (45 percent) is leading better.

It’s not that Republicans like Putin, or even object to U.S. policy. In fact, a mere 11 percent of them oppose last week’s major U.S. sanctions designed to “cut off Russia’s government from Western banks and financial markets.”

Instead, Republicans are largely opposed to Biden himself. A full 87 percent of Trump voters, for instance, have a “very” unfavorable opinion of him; just 60 percent have a very unfavorable opinion of Putin. Trump voters simply feel more animosity toward the president of the United States than toward the president of Russia.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

It will be virtually impossible for Biden to ever alter this dynamic. The question going forward is whether dispirited Democrats can be reenergized ahead of the 2022 midterms and a possible 2024 reelection campaign.

The current numbers are not encouraging for Biden. Just 35 percent of Democrats “strongly” approve of his performance as president. Just 43 percent want him to run again. And just 21 percent say they would prefer to see him as the 2024 Democratic nominee when asked to choose from a list of seven possible candidates — half the number of Republicans (43 percent) who say the same about Trump.

On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (14 percent) and Vice President Kamala Harris (14 percent) trail closely behind Biden, and “not sure” garners 18 percent of the vote. On the Republican side, however, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (22 percent) earns only half as much support as Trump.

Together, these two factors — Republican antipathy plus Democratic apathy — mean that twice as many Americans now strongly disapprove of Biden (39 percent) as strongly approve (15 percent). And more want Trump to run for president again (30 percent) than Biden (22 percent).

Democratic defeat in 2022 and 2024 isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion. For one thing, Americans are more likely to say Democrats in Congress (65 percent) and Republicans in Congress (65 percent) bear at least “some” responsibility for “America’s problems today” than to say Biden (58 percent) — recognition that gridlock on Capitol Hill has stalled the president’s agenda. And in their own congressional districts, more Americans say they would vote for the Democratic candidate (36 percent) than the Republican candidate (33 percent) if the midterms were held today.

Signs from a demonstration on voting rights
Signs from a demonstration on voting rights in August 2021 express frustration with Biden's perceived indecision. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The new poll also shows a sudden jump in optimism about COVID-19, as well as the biggest between-survey decline in concerns about the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. Only 47 percent of Americans now say they are at least somewhat worried about COVID, down from 55 percent since early February. That’s the lowest number to date. A majority of Americans (55 percent) now think the worst of the pandemic is behind us, up 9 points since early February. If no dangerous new variants emerge, Biden could benefit.

Until inflation falls, however, it will continue to serve as a drag on the president. Unsurprisingly, nearly all Americans (88 percent) say they have felt the impact of rising prices, either “a lot” (51 percent) or “a little” (37 percent) — overshadowing rosier news about GDP growth (18 percent a lot, 40 percent a little) and job growth (8 percent a lot, 27 percent a little). It also remains to be seen what happens next with Russia and Ukraine, which 23 percent of Americans now say should be Biden’s top priority — the same number who say inflation.

Even so, Biden is still running slightly ahead of Trump in a hypothetical rematch among registered voters, 45 percent to 42 percent. And Trump’s unfavorable rating (55 percent) remains higher than Biden’s (51 percent).

____________________

The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,532 U.S. adults interviewed online from Feb. 24 to 27, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or nonvote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7 percent.