As President Joe Biden prepares to launch his re-election campaign in the coming months, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll on Sunday showed that Biden must overcome a lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy and a feeling that voters’ financial situation has worsened since he took office.
Biden has not officially announced his campaign, though he is widely expected to by spring; no other Democrats have entered the race. Yet the poll shows that 58 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents want another nominee for the party. About two-thirds of respondents said they would be unenthusiastic or angry if Biden wins in 2024, while just a third said they would be satisfied or enthusiastic. The numbers show that Democrats’ strong performance in the 2022 midterms and improving financial indicators have not translated into growing enthusiasm for Biden’s reelection.
The news for former President Donald Trump, who is running a third time, is better for the primary. Trump’s supporters are more excited than Biden’s, with 44 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independents saying they’d want him to be their nominee as opposed to 49 percent who do not. In the event of a Biden-Trump match-up, the poll found that Trump would win, amassing 48 percent of votes compared to just 45 percent for Biden. (That lead, though, is within the poll’s margin of error.) The poll also showed that while Trump draws more enthusiasm from his base, he also draws more anger from the electorate as a whole. This speaks to a broader reality about what has buoyed Democratic candidates in recent elections: Less enthusiasm for the Democrats than a rejection of extreme MAGA Republicans.
Biden’s approval has held steady in recent months, hovering around 42 percent. But inflation during his first two years in office are likely pulling down his numbers. As Americans have felt a squeeze on their household finances, poll after poll has shown that an increasing number of them blame the president. Between April and July of this year, his economic approval rating fell to 30 percent, according to CNBC’s economic survey—below the lowest ratings seen by both Donald Trump and Barack Obama.
Sunday’s poll showed that the association between Biden and voters’ financial situation is not good: 41 percent of respondents said they have grown worse off financially during Biden’s two years in office. That is the highest number the Post-ABC poll has recorded for this question since it first asked it in 1986 during Ronald Reagan’s second term. But it’s Reagan’s first term that Biden is certainly hoping to replicate: a recession at the beginning of his presidency in 1980 was followed by a recovery two years later and a resounding re-election in 1984.
Biden is clearly hoping for this kind of a turnaround. He enjoyed an unexpectedly strong jobs report on Friday, pointing to it as a sign that his economic agenda is working. Though the economy is not out of the woods, Biden has also taken pains to stress signals of progress: In his Friday remarks, he noted that inflation is decreasing, and he has recently taken trips to highlight the achievements of his first two years, including the fruits of the bipartisan infrastructure law. This strategy is likely to ramp up on Tuesday when the president gives his State of the Union Address to Congress.
The election is nearly two years away. In that time, Biden will work to build enthusiasm for his re-election, stress his accomplishments, and hope the economy continues to improve, bringing with it more voter support. Meanwhile, Republicans will soon enter a heated primary, and the GOP-controlled House of Representatives is likely to showcase the party’s most extreme members as it grabs headlines with investigations into the Biden administration. The poll is an early indication that both frontrunners—Biden and Trump—have their work cut out for them.