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Poll Reveals What That SOTU Address Did for Biden

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Last Thursday, President Joe Biden presented his State of the Union address that started nearly half an hour late and was mostly filled with angry ranting against Republicans, especially former and potentially future President Donald Trump. Despite, or because of, the naked partisanship, Democrats ate it up. That may be helpful as Biden risks losing his base when it comes to voters in key states like Michigan, but others, voting “uncommitted” in the primary due to the support he’s dared to show Israel in the conflict against Hamas. What do Americans overall think, though? 

On Sunday, ABC News/Ipsos released a poll showing that among those who watched, a key distinction, a plurality thought he did better than expected. That’s not the full picture, though. “Biden somewhat exceeded expectations, but approval ratings unchanged,” the Ipsos headline pointed out.

According to the poll of Americans, 29 percent said Biden did “better than expected,” while 24 percent said he did “the same as expected,” while just 12 percent said he did “worse than expected.” However, 35 percent of respondents said they “didn’t read, see, or hear about” the address. The ABC News write-up of the poll also focused on respondents who have an unfavorable view of both Biden and Trump, pointing out that 50 percent of these people fell into that latter category of not reading, seeing, or hearing about it.

The fact that Biden’s “approval ratings [are] unchanged” is not good for the deeply unpopular incumbent. When it comes to nine issues that respondents were asked about, the nicest thing to be said is that he has a “mixed” rating on abortion, where his approval rating has improved since last October, though 50 percent still disapprove of his handling of the issue. His approval rating on the Israel-Hamas war has worsened since then, and his approval rating pretty much remains the same for the other seven issues. As Ipsos explained:

2. Despite the positive marks Biden earns from some groups on his performance, that has not yet translated into positive change on his approval ratings.

  • Out of the nine issues asked about in the survey, seven are in line with previous approval ratings last reported in October 2023. Biden’s approval rating has only changed on two issues: abortion (improved) and the war between Israel and Hamas (worsened).
  • At least three in five Americans continue to disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border (68%), inflation (66%), the war between Israel and Hamas (65%), gun violence (62%), crime (61%), and the economy (60%).
  • Biden’s approval ratings on abortion are mixed (47% approve, 50% disapprove), a net positive change of 16 points (from a net -19 approval in October to -3 now). On the other hand, his standing on Israel has worsened from the days immediately following the October 7 attacks (net -35 approval now versus -13 then).

Not only is Biden doing poorly on issues where Trump has an edge here and in other polls, as we’ll address in a moment, but he’s not doing so great on Democratic pet projects either. Biden is still at a -3 on abortion, which is seen as a major motivating factor for Democratic voters and came up significantly during his address. He’s also -12 on “climate change,” in that 42 percent approve while 54 percent disapprove of his handling of the issue. The poll also asked about how “the situation with Russia and Ukraine,” with 41 percent approving of Biden’s handling, while 54 percent disapprove, giving him a similar net of -13. Not only is Ukraine a priority of the Biden administration, it was the first topic he brought up in his State of the Union address. 

When it comes to the role these issues will play in the 2024 election, looking more certain than ever to be a rematch of 2020, Trump has the edge in his approval ratings of such issues. Overall, though, Trump holds a slight edge, still within the margin of error, when it comes to who respondents would trust more. Sure enough, that is the takeaway ABC News went with when it comes to their headline highlighting how “Americans split on who they trust to do a better job as president.”

Unlike Biden, who was underwater in all issues, of the seven issues respondents were asked to think back on when it comes to whether they approved of how Trump handled certain issues, a plurality approved of his handling of the economy, with 49 percent saying so. The net negatives for Trump were also considerably lower on most of the issues than they were for Biden.

It’s worth pointing out that other polls have asked who respondents, usually voters, prefer on issues, and Trump enjoys leads on the issues that matter most. Further, a CBS News poll released last weekend that we covered in another VIP piece, also asked voters to think back to when Trump was in office and found he got much stronger and much better marks when it comes to the economy, which remains a top issue. The economy was also one of Trump’s better issues during his first term, especially before the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns hit. 

That Trump still has an edge of 36-33 when it comes to who respondents “trust to do a better job” remains significant. This is especially if there might be an opening with the 30 percent who say “neither” but perhaps can be moved. 

ABC News also focused on the partisan breakdown, which looks better for Trump, as well as another group that could matter:

More Republicans trust Trump to do a better job leading the country (82%) than Democrats trust Biden (72%). Among independents, 32% trust Biden, 31% trust Trump and 37% trust neither.

The candidates’ favorability ratings are similar, and similarly low, with 33% of Americans having a favorable impression of Biden compared to 29% for Trump. Just over one in five Americans (21%) have an unfavorable view of both the current and former president. Whether this group votes and who they vote for will be a key driver of the 2024 outcome.

Among those who view both candidates unfavorably, an overwhelming majority — 72% — trust neither candidate to do a better job leading the country while only 19% trust Trump to do a better job leading the country and even fewer — 9% — trust Biden.

The poll was conducted March 8-9 with 536 U.S. adults and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. 

The poll was discussed a bit during Sunday’s edition of “This Week,” though one would think it might get slightly more attention than the mentions it did during the episode. While host George Stephanopoulos acknowledged during a panel discussion that Trump enjoys that 82 percent support from Republicans mentioned above when it comes to doing a better job, it was after USA Today’s Susan Page brought up the 72 percent of Democrats saying so about Biden, which she said is “a really low number” and “bad news for Biden.”

Even more noteworthy is how Stephanopoulos also completely ignored Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) bringing up polling during her segment on the show. “You cited the polling in your show today showing that Trump is beating Joe Biden on all of the critical issues that the American people care about, talking about immigration, the border, inflation, et cetera,” she pointed out. “He’s very strong on those issues, stronger than Joe Biden, and that’s–I listen to my voters. I talk to South Carolinians every single day, and they support Donald Trump. He’s going to win our state overwhelmingly in November.”

Stephanopoulos deflected and responded by asking the congresswoman “how have you held Donald Trump accountable for what he did on January 6th,” shortly before he engaged in shaming Mace as a victim of rape who dares to support Trump, as Matt covered earlier.

On Friday, RealClearPolitics published Philip Wegmann’s “Biden’s State of the Union Address Strikes Campaign Tone,” as a write-up of the address. That may be why Democrats seemed to receive the speech so well. To them, it likely shows more confidence in Biden remaining the nominee, though we’ll see if that continues up until the August convention in Chicago and the general election in November. Such an angry, hyperpartisan tone may also turn more Republicans and Republican leaners even further against Biden, though, if this were to continue. 

Going back to Ipsos’ headline, it likely wasn’t hard for Biden to exceed expectations as he’s shown signs of clear cognitive decline. Jokes abound about whether he was on some sort of performance drugs, although there may be a point to them, given that a psychiatrist told The Washington Times, that he was displaying signs of being on something. “If you look at how Joe Biden usually is–slow and stumbling–compared to how he was during the State of the Union–fiery and angry–these are signs that are typical for someone taking Adderall or any amphetamine,” Dr. Carol Lieberman told the outlet. 

By the following day, the 81-year-old president was back to being his bumbling self as he spoke to the press, and continued to be in the days that followed for his campaign events over the weekend and again on Monday.



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