Only 38% of adults surveyed in the new Associated Press poll approve of President Joe Biden’s performance in office — down from 45% last month. This number is consistent with the most recent Quinnipiac poll, which last week showed Biden also at 38% approval among adults and 39% among registered voters.
The Associated Press poll’s 38% rating is bad — very close to his all-time low. But perhaps Biden’s bigger problem is that there’s still a lot of downside potential.
Set aside the recent bank scare for a moment — so far, ordinary people aren’t feeling the effects — and this low number comes at a moment when things are still … meh, pretty OK. Unemployment is low. Gas prices, while a bit high at $3.45 per gallon, are still tolerable.
If only 31% approve of Biden’s handling of the economy now, what happens when things actually go wrong?
For example, what happens if gas rises again to $4.99 like it did last summer? Or when unemployment rises? The Federal Reserve projected last month that unemployment will rise to 5.1%, mostly over the course of the election year, if it raises interest rates by just another half-point from where they are now. It also projects that rates need to go even higher than that to contain inflation fully at the 2% target by the end of 2025.
The economy in particular may help explain the cold reception that Biden is getting from Democrats younger than 45 years old — surprisingly, only 54% of them approve of his economic leadership, far less than the 72% of Democrats older than 45.
And overall, Biden is doing worse with younger voters than with older ones — adults under 45 are just slightly sourer on him than their older peers at 35% approval versus 40%.
Many young adults are failing to launch amid 6% inflation and the high interest rate environment that had to be created to counter it. The situation is making homeownership (a key milestone for most households to build wealth) unusually difficult for anyone who can’t pay cash, which includes nearly everyone under 45. Rents have skyrocketed. And if you’re not paying high interest on a home, you’re probably paying it on your car and your credit card debt — sadly, 51% of Americans carry a balance on their credit cards. And at 6% inflation, your real wages are falling.
If I had to guess based on these two polls what Biden’s best hope is, I’d say it’s the renomination of former President Donald Trump. The Quinnipiac poll shows that Trump, at negative 22 points, still has a worse favorability rating than Biden (negative 14 points), even now. Only former Vice President Mike Pence (negative 25 points) polls worse.