Post-ABC poll: Biden faces criticism on economy, immigration and age

A Washington Post-ABC News poll finds President Biden struggling to gain approval from a skeptical public, with dissatisfaction growing over his handling of the economy and immigration, a rising share saying the United States is doing too much to aid Ukraine in its war with Russia and broad concerns about his age as he seeks a second term.

Biden and former president Donald Trump appear headed for a rematch of their 2020 contest, although more than 3 in 5 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they would prefer a nominee other than the president. But Biden’s advisers have argued that he is the strongest Democrat for 2024 and those who wish for someone else share no consensus on who that should be, with 8 percent naming Vice President Harris, 8 percent naming Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 20 percent saying they prefer “just someone else.”

The Post-ABC poll shows Biden trailing Trump by 10 percentage points at this early stage in the election cycle, although the sizable margin of Trump’s lead in this survey is significantly at odds with other public polls that show the general election contest a virtual dead heat. The difference between this poll and others, as well as the unusual makeup of Trump’s and Biden’s coalitions in this survey, suggest it is probably an outlier.

In his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee for a third time, Trump is in a strong position nationally despite facing multiple criminal charges. He is favored by 54 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, little changed from 51 percent in May. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is second at 15 percent, down from 25 percent in May. No other Republican reaches double digits. Trump also leads his GOP rivals in recent state polls, which are likely to be more reliable indicators than national polls of the shape of the GOP race in the coming months.

Trump faces 91 felony counts in four jurisdictions, including two cases in which he has been indicted on charges of attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Asked whether the former president is being held accountable under the law like anyone else would be or unfairly victimized by his political opponents, 53 percent of Americans say he is being held accountable like others and 40 percent say he is being unfairly victimized. Three-quarters of Republicans say the latter.

A similar question was asked about the recently launched impeachment inquiry aimed at Biden by House Republicans, despite the absence of direct evidence of an impeachable offense by the president. On this question, 58 percent of Americans say Biden is being held accountable under the law like any other president while 32 percent say he is being unfairly victimized by political opponents.

The public is more evenly divided on whether Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against Biden, with about 7 in 10 Republicans and Republican leaners in support while about 8 in 10 Democrats are opposed.

Biden’s overall approval stands at 37 percent, about where it was in May but lower than in February when it was 42 percent. The Post-ABC poll finds 56 percent of Americans disapproving of Biden, a figure on par with other recent polls.

The poll also asked people whether, looking back, approve or disapprove of the way Trump handled the job of being president. The result was 48 percent saying they approve and 49 percent saying they disapprove. That 48 percent approval is 10 points better than when he left office in January 2021 and higher than it was through nearly the entirety of his presidency.

Biden has spent recent weeks promoting his economic record — “Bidenomics,” as he calls it — and has cited low unemployment, infrastructure spending and investment in programs to deal with climate change among other indicators as evidence of success. But worries about inflation have persisted and, in the Post-ABC survey, his approval on handling the economy has dropped to 30 percent, the lowest of his presidency.

Overall, roughly 3 in 4 Americans say the economy is not so good or poor, and despite the unemployment rate staying below 4 percent for more than a year, 57 percent rate it negatively. There are even worse ratings of gas or energy prices (87 percent say not so good or poor), which have recently risen again, and food prices (a 91 percent negative rating).

Three in 4 also have a negative perception of the state of the average American’s income. Asked whether they are better off financially than when Biden took office, not as well off or in about the same shape, 44 percent say not as well off, compared with 15 percent who say better off and 39 percent who say about the same.

The Biden administration has faced repeated challenges on immigration and has shifted its policies amid clamor for help by communities at the border and in some states and big cities elsewhere run by Democratic mayors. Last week, the administration announced that it would offer temporary work permits for nearly 500,000 Venezuelans to relieve some of the pressure.

Asked about Biden’s handling of the immigration situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, 23 percent say they approve while 62 percent say they disapprove. That compares with 28 percent approval and 59 percent disapproval in February.

On another issue that has figured into political campaigns over the past year, abortion remains a flash point. Opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the constitutional right to abortion and turned the issue back to the states, stands at 64 percent. That has changed little since the decision, and it is an issue that Biden and Democrats say they intend to continue to adjudicate in the 2024 elections.

Trump has bragged that, by appointing three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, he was able to overturn Roe v. Wade after other elected officials opposing abortion had failed. But he has wobbled of late on the issue, criticizing other Republicans, including governors who have enacted bans on abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. His recent comments have drawn criticism from some of the groups who applauded his Supreme Court appointments.

Biden met Friday at the White House with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who also met with congressional leaders of both parties on that day. The president reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to aid the Ukrainian war effort against Russia, but on Capitol Hill, some House and Senate Republicans are resisting authorizing additional assistance.

Since the start of the war in February 2022, public opinion has shifted away from supporting the Ukrainians. The current survey finds 41 percent saying the United States is doing too much to help, 31 percent saying it is the right amount and 18 percent saying it is too little. In February, 33 percent said they thought levels of assistance were too much while in April 2022, 14 percent held that view.

The issue of aid to Ukraine is just one of several issues that have split House Republicans, making the possibility of a government shutdown at the end of next week increasingly likely. But when asked whom they would blame if that were to happen, 40 percent say Biden and the Democrats while 33 percent say Republicans in Congress.

That finding is at odds with previous Post-ABC polls taken over many years at times when the government was partially shut down due to spending disputes. In all those cases but one, Americans pinned the blame more on Republicans than Democrats, and in that lone instance, the public was evenly divided over which party bore responsibility.

Biden’s travails have been well documented this year in Post-ABC and other polls, although those surveys have shown that a general election contest between the two men remains a toss-up. The latest Post-ABC survey, however, produced a surprising result, with Trump ahead of Biden among registered voters by 10 percentage points — 52 percent to 42 percent. In May, a Post-ABC survey found Trump with a six-point lead among registered voters, 49 percent to Biden’s 43 percent.

In his two campaigns for the White House, Trump did not approach a majority in the popular vote, winning 46 percent in 2016 and 47 percent in 2020.

Looking at some of the support levels among different demographic and political groups also points to reasons for caution on this finding. For example, in the new poll, men favor Trump by 62 percent to 32 percent, a margin of 30 points. In May, Trump’s margin among men was 16 points.

Among voters under age 35, Trump leads Biden in the new Post-ABC poll by 20 points. Some other recent public polls show Biden winning this group by between six and 18 points. In 2020, Biden won voters under age 35 by double digits. Among non-White voters, the poll finds Biden leads by nine points. In four other public polls, Biden’s lead among non-White voters ranges from 12 points to 24 points.

Another group that backs Trump by a big margin in the poll are those who say they did not vote in 2020. They account for about 15 percent of the overall sample of registered voters, and they favor Trump over Biden by 63 percent to 27 percent. That level of support is significantly stronger than among those in the poll who say they voted in 2020. Among that group, Trump is at 50 percent, Biden at 45 percent.

Outlier results occasionally occur in polls due to random error and nonresponse issues, although the political composition of the poll is typical on other metrics. Self-reported 2020 voters say they supported Biden over Trump that year by a 50 percent to 46 percent margin, similar to Biden’s 51 percent to 47 percent margin in the national popular vote. In the poll, Republicans have a four-point advantage on party identification when including independents who lean toward either party, slightly more Republican than other recent polls.

A majority of Americans (60 percent) say they believe Biden was legitimately elected in 2020. That result has held relatively steady since early 2021 even as Trump continues to claim falsely that the election was marred by widespread fraud.

But Trump’s persistent false claims have found an audience in the Republican Party. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 55 percent say they believe Biden was not legitimately elected, with 44 percent saying there is solid evidence of fraud.

The issue of age affects perceptions of both of them, though more often with Biden, who would be 82 at the start of a second term while Trump would be 78. Overall, 74 percent of adults say the president would be too old to serve another term, while 50 percent say that of Trump.

A near-majority of Americans (48 percent) say both men are too old to serve another term. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) say neither is too old. Roughly similar percentages of Democrats and independents say both men would be too old, while a slim majority of Republicans say only Biden is too old.

The Constitution prohibits someone who has taken an oath to defend the Constitution from holding office if they have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States. There are some legal experts who say this should disqualify Trump because of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Americans are roughly divided on this, with 44 percent saying he should be prohibited from holding office again and 50 percent saying he should not be prohibited.

Democrats and Republicans are predictably split on this, with Democrats overwhelmingly saying he should be prohibited and Republicans the opposite. But 24 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say Trump should not be prohibited and 19 percent of Republicans say he should be.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Sept. 15-20, among a random national sample of 1,006 U.S. adults, with 75 percent reached on cellphones and 25 percent on landlines. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The error margin is four points among the sample of 890 registered voters, and larger among other subgroups.

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