“National dissatisfaction is bipartisan,” the Associated Press reported last night. In fact, it’s nearly a consensus. Their latest poll, conducted in partnership with NORC, shows 85% of Americans believing that the country is headed in the wrong direction, including more than three out of every four Democrats:
An overwhelming and growing majority of Americans say the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction, including nearly 8 in 10 Democrats, according to a new poll that finds deep pessimism about the economy plaguing President Joe Biden.
Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults say the country is on the wrong track, and 79% describe the economy as poor, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The findings suggest Biden faces fundamental challenges as he tries to motivate voters to cast ballots for Democrats in November’s midterm elections.
Inflation has consistently eclipsed the healthy 3.6% unemployment rate as a focal point for Americans, who are dealing with high gasoline and food prices. Even among Democrats, 67% call economic conditions poor.
The biggest problem for Democrats in this midterm cycle won’t be Republicans. It will be themselves. Take a look at the chart the AP published on the partisan demos for this question and try to calculate the turnout model for November:
Remember Biden’s ephemeral and mostly phantasmic post-State of the Union bounce? That came right as Democrats briefly rallied back around Biden in March after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and his speech. That didn’t last long, and barely registered at all among independents. One can draw a line between the summer of 2021 and the disgraceful rout out of Afghanistan and the 78% number to see that Democrats have lost confidence in their own president.
Does this reflect entirely on Joe Biden? Some of it will be an expression of the “partisanship” for which Democrats will blame Republicans. (The AP report helpfully includes that as its leading anecdote.) The last tiny bit of this will undoubtedly be laid at the feet of the Supreme Court and the decision in Dobbs. But that long incline from the summer of 2021 to today tells the real story — that Joe Biden has taken the country in such a bad direction that even Democrats can’t pretend any longer that he’s doing well.
Besides, Democratic dissatisfaction is more specific than just “direction.” Two-thirds of Democrats now say the economy is “poor,” which has nothing to do with abortion or Republican opposition in a government controlled by Democrats:
This poll has more direct measures of Joe Biden, too. His overall job approval dropped to 39/60, and although he gets significant support from Democrats on that question, a quarter of his own voters disapprove (72/27). It’s 25/73 among independents and 8/91 among Republicans, which raises a question about whether Democrats may be a bit overrepresented in the sample.
Democrats support Biden on all of the issue questions, but again it’s not a very impressive showing:
- Pandemic: 53/45 overall; Dems 85/13; GOP 23/75; indies 38/60
- Gun policy: 36/62 overall; Dems 63/34; GOP 9/91; indies 27/71
- Economy: 28/69 overall; Dems 54/43; GOP 5/93; indies 14/84
Those independent numbers are brutal for Democrats, but the level of dissatisfaction in their own ranks on Biden’s performance may be worse. Democrats are girding up for a typical base-turnout strategy in a cycle where their base has shrunk and their enthusiasm has all but drowned in high prices and shortages. The rest of the electorate is angry at the results of Democratic leadership and the sharply wrong turn it took the country. Even the leak in the Dobbs case that made it clear that Roe would be overturned hasn’t even kept Democrats on board, let alone anyone else.
Democrats are running full steam ahead into a midterm tsunami, led by a president who lacks any awareness at all of his own role in creating it. The only unity Biden has brought is on the quality of his leadership and intellect, and that’s very bad news for party leaders.