Analysis: Democrats still back Biden, but his ratings have declined

·4 min read
Analysis: Democrats still back Biden, but his ratings have declined

Democrats still overwhelmingly approve of President Biden's overall job performance, but approval among members of his own party has slipped some over the year of his term — from a high of 94% at the beginning in February to 81% today. The decline is most pronounced among the more moderate members of the Democratic Party as opposed to liberals. Many moderates are questioning Biden's priorities and effectiveness, more so than his ideology.

Our most recent CBS News poll indicates not just a decline in Mr. Biden's overall approval rating, but also a softening of support among those who still approve of him. At his six month point in July, the percentage of Democrats who said they strongly approved of Mr. Biden outnumbered the percentage who only approved somewhat by nearly two to one. Now, just as many Democrats say they approve only somewhat, while the percentage who strongly approve has dropped twenty-one points. Another one in five Democrats disapprove.

In his press conference on Wednesday, Mr. Biden burnished his own credentials as a centrist and resisted the implication that he had tacked the party too far to the left. Democrats overall seem satisfied with where the president stands ideologically: most think he is "about as liberal as they would like." And though 64% of Democrats who call themselves very liberal would like Biden to be more so, most in this group nevertheless say they approve of how he's handling his job as president.

But even if they don't think he's too liberal per se, it's among the more moderate elements of the Democratic Party that Mr. Biden has lost the most ground. The percentage of moderate Democrats who disapprove of Mr. Biden's job performance has jumped from just 5% in July to 26% today.

In contrast, nearly nine in 10 Democrats who describe themselves as simply "liberal" give Mr. Biden positive approval marks, but now more say they "somewhat approve" than approve strongly. Among the "very liberal", there is a significant minority — almost one in five — who disapprove of how Mr. Biden is handling his job. But twice as many say they approve strongly — more so than less liberal Democrats.

One area where Democrats across the ideological spectrum give Mr. Biden positive marks is handling the coronavirus outbreak. Most think efforts to control the outbreak are going at least somewhat well, and large majorities of very liberal, liberal, and moderate Democrats think the president is doing a good job on this front. And — unlike Americans overall — most Democrats think the information they're hearing from medical professionals and public health agencies has been mostly clear.

Still, we do see a growing unease among Democrats when assessing Joe Biden's tenure in the White House. In April, most Democrats said the Biden presidency made them feel calm, satisfied, and secure. Now, fewer than half of Democrats do. And while nearly all Democrats still describe Mr. Biden's actions as president as presidential, knowledgeable, and competent, the percentage of Democrats who say he is unifying, focused, and effective has dropped.

Moderate Democrats are particularly dissatisfied compared to liberals: they are more likely than liberal Democrats to say they are worse off financially than they were a year ago, and they are more concerned about the economy, the coronavirus outbreak, and inflation than they are about the president's priority issue of the moment — voting rights and access. This is evident in how moderate Democrats view the administration's priorities: while most very liberal Democrats don't think the administration is focused enough on voting rights, moderate Democrats are more likely to say it isn't focused enough on inflation.

This concern about pocketbook issues is reflected in the feeling among many moderate Democrats that Mr. Biden's policies, if not working against them, aren't really helping them either. While just over half of liberal Democrats think Mr. Biden's policies favor people like them, just four in 10 moderate Democrats agree. Similarly, while six in 10 liberals think Mr. Biden's policies favor the middle class, most moderate Democrats either think they work against them or have no impact either way.

And while just over half of liberal Democrats think Mr. Biden's policies favor Black and Hispanic people, fewer than half of moderate Democrats agree. But most moderate Democrats don't think the president's policies favor White people either, betraying a skepticism about whether his policies are really helping any particular group.

The result seems to be that moderate Democrats are far less likely to say that Mr. Biden cares a lot about them. In March, six in 10 moderate Democrats said Mr. Biden cared a lot about people like them. Now, while most think he cares some, the proportion who thinks he cares a lot has dropped to just a third. Half of liberal Democrats, in contrast, still think Mr. Biden cares a lot about them.

This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,094 U.S. adult residents interviewed between January 12-14, 2022. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as to 2020 presidential vote. The margin of error is ±2.5 points.

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