More than a third of Americans call the economy the most pressing problem facing the country (36%). Among the group that sees it that way, 72% say Biden hasn’t been attentive to the right issues. That dynamic is reversed among the smaller 20% who consider the coronavirus pandemic the nation’s top problem: 79% in that subset say Biden has had the right priorities, while 21% not.
All told, 48% of adults approve of the way Biden is handling the job while 52% disapprove. Intensity within those ratings breaks sharply against the President. The share saying they strongly approve of Biden’s performance has dropped to just 15%, down from 34% in April. Although CNN does not ask strength of approval in every poll, that number never dipped below 20% during the presidencies of either Barack Obama or Donald Trump.
In the new poll, 36% say they strongly disapprove of Biden’s handling of the presidency, and that figure is about the same as it was when CNN last asked strength of approval in April, suggesting the drop in approval over the last few months has been driven more by disappointment among his original supporters than an expansion of the group that started off strongly opposed to his presidency.
The poll was completed November 1 through 4, before the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The nearly 6 in 10 who say Biden hasn’t had the right priorities is similar to the share who felt that way about Trump in September 2017 (59%) and who said the same about Obama in January 2010 (55%). Both presidents’ parties suffered significant losses in Congress in the midterm elections held during the second year of their time in office.
Registered voters do give Biden’s party a narrow edge in a generic congressional matchup, though, with 49% saying they would back the Democrat in their district in next year’s midterms and 44% the Republican. That’s about the same as the Democratic advantage in CNN polling in November 2009 (49% Democrats to 43% Republicans). Ongoing congressional redistricting could alter how those preferences translate into actual congressional seats, but recent elections suggest Democrats typically win a smaller share of seats than they do overall votes.
The results of off-year gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia suggest that Republicans are currently more enthusiastic about voting than Democrats, which could also work against Democrats’ chances.
About half (52% of registered voters) say their 2022 vote will not be about Biden, but those who do feel they are using their vote to say something about the President are more negative (26% sending a message to oppose Biden) than positive (19% sending a message to support him).
About two-thirds of Americans say they are confident that next year’s congressional elections will be conducted fairly (65%), but that only includes 31% who are very confident. The effects of repeated lies about the 2020 election’s validity are clear: Republicans express significantly less confidence than Democrats in the fairness of the coming contests. Overall, just 40% of Republicans say they are confident the elections will be carried out fairly, compared with 84% of Democrats. Among independents, 66% are confident that the elections will be fair.
And as the election year approaches, the nation’s issue landscape appears to be shifting. With the latest wave of Covid-19 infections subsiding and prices on the rise, the economy (36%) outranks the coronavirus pandemic (20%) as the most important issue facing the country. Immigration (14%) and climate change (11%) follow and are the only other issues to land in double-digits, followed by national security (8%), racial injustice (5%) and education (3%).
The nation’s top concerns — like its views on many things — are sharply divided by party. Among Republicans, roughly half (51%) choose the economy as their top concern, with immigration (23%) and national security (13%) far behind. Just 4% of Republicans call coronavirus the nation’s most important problem. Independents likewise rate the economy tops (38%), followed by coronavirus (18%), immigration (13%) and climate (11%). Among Democrats, though, 34% name coronavirus as the top problem, followed by the economy at 20%, about even with the climate at 18%. Another 8% say immigration is their top issue. Just 3% of Democrats cite national security as their top issue, with Republicans similarly unlikely to be focused on climate change, racial injustice or education.
The connection between perception of the top issue and views on whether Biden has had the right priorities is strong, and even among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the share saying Biden has had the wrong priorities climbs to 42% among those who call the economy the top problem, compared with 17% among those who consider the coronavirus the top problem.
And although Biden’s approval ratings are sharply polarized by party, the new poll finds Biden’s disapproval rating creeping upward among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. In the new poll, 21% say they disapprove of the way Biden is handling the presidency. That figure was 17% last month. Biden’s weakness within that subset seems to come among younger people. While nearly all adults age 65 or older who are Democrats or Democratic-leaners approve of Biden’s performance (95% approve), among those under age 30, approval dips to 61%, with just 9% saying they strongly approve of Biden’s performance as president.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS November 1 through 4 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults surveyed online after being recruited using probability-based methods. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points, among the 859 registered voters surveyed, it is plus or minus 4.3 points. It is larger for subgroups.
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