A.B. Stoddard of RealClearPolitics
In less than three months, President Biden’s approval rating has tumbled from a remarkable position in a polarized nation to the lowest of all but two presidents since 1945. While Democrats feel panicked and refusing to change course, they hope that the pandemic won’t return and the economy will rebound and their agenda will get through Congress.
The standing of the party with voters, at this time, isn’t in doubt. It’s awful. Biden’s average job approval rating on July 20 was 52.4% in the RealClearPolitics average before tanking precipitously and taking the party’s fortunes with him as the delta variant surged and American troops withdrew from Afghanistan in a deadly and tragic exit. RCP currently places him at 43.3%.
Gallup’s approval of Biden has fallen 13 points from June to six points this month. The latest Quinnipiac University poll had Biden’s approval/disapproval at 38/53, down four points in three weeks. Specific findings on leadership questions were dreadful, with Biden’s numbers falling since April by nine points on the question of whether he cares about average Americans, seven points on whether he is honest, and nine points on whether he has good leadership skills.
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The latest Morning Consult/Politico findings from last week showed Biden’s approval underwater across the board, at 45% approval overall, at 40% on the economy, 44% on health care, 40% on national security, 33% on immigration and 36% on foreign policy.
The only number not underwater was Biden’s COVID approval of 49%-46%, 30 points lower than it was last spring. Across all polling Biden’s approval on the questions of competence and accomplishment have suffered. And that Morning Consult/Politico survey stated, “The shares of independent and Democratic voters who say Biden has underperformed expectations have doubled over the past three months.”
The downward spiral has been stalled by the decrease in deaths from COVID, hospitalizations, and infections. In order for Democrats to stay competitive in the midterm elections, Biden’s approval would have to get back up to 50%-52%. Low presidential approval ratings have correlated to significant losses for the president’s party in the last four midterm elections of 2018, 2014, 2010 and 2006.
Meanwhile Republicans have narrowed the margin in the congressional generic ballot, and a September Morning Consult/Politico poll found “58% of GOP voters say they’re ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ enthusiastic to vote in the 2022 midterms, up 10 points since July.”
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Even if their polling was good, Democrats face fierce headwinds next year: historical trends that favor the party out of power in the midterms in a president’s first term, a fragile four-seat margin in the House and no margin in the Senate, all of which can easily erase their congressional majorities, and redistricting maps that favor the GOP.
In addition, the party is facing new liabilities in voter registration — it has lost registered voters in critical states in considerable numbers.
According to the Hill, Democrats’ registrations have fallen in Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania since 2019. They are down by over 200,000 each, more than 135,000 respectively, and Pennsylvania is down by nearly 200,000. In Arizona and New Hampshire, Democrats saw marginally higher party registrations.
But while Democrats prepare for the worst, it is possible that they don’t know how much their support has waned among voters. Polling before last year’s election, in which Biden only prevailed by fewer than 43,000 votes in three swing states, was the least accurate in 40 years.
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The postmortem evaluations are complex and often inconclusive. But several point to the likelihood that both Republican and Democratic polls — almost all of which favored Biden over President Trump — were off by an average of four percentage points; that most surveys likely oversampled liberal Democrats; that a surge of new voters could have contributed to the polling errors; and that Trump supporters were less likely to respond to pollsters because Trump repeatedly characterized them as “fake” or “suppression polls.”
While 2022 will not be a presidential year, a study of 2020 polls by the American Association of Public Opinion Research found that “[t]he overstatement of the Democratic-Republican margin in polls was larger on average in senatorial and gubernatorial races compared to the Presidential contest.
Last year Democrats poured record sums into Senate races in red states like Montana, South Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and Iowa because the polling looked so promising — only to lose them all.
No polling prediction can be trusted, but voter turnout will surprise even the most optimistic. But Democrats will have a rough time turning out their voters next year when the base of the party is likely to feel more disappointment than gratitude for the party’s accomplishments in 2021 and 2022, and the GOP base is likely to be highly energized.
In Virginia, where Terry McAuliffe (former governor) is currently tied with Glenn Youngkin, the first bellwether election in consequence will be held in a few weeks. If McAuliffe wins, Democrats are likely to dismiss the picture that the polls around the country portray for them next year. They shouldn’t.
Much can happen in a year, Democrats hope for improvement in the economy and the pandemic, and a return on their far-reaching “infrastructure” agenda may materialize. The revelations of the Jan. 6 rebellion may be a challenge to GOP candidates hoping for a rift between Trump and their campaigns.
Trump’s war with the GOP, and his constant messaging to its voters that all elections are rigged, may cost the party substantial voter turnout in key districts or states.
But Democrats shouldn’t count on it. Democrats should not believe polls, but campaign as if they did.
RealClearWire permission granted this syndicated version.
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