Even his friends and allies agree that Joe Biden faces a long, hard slog if he expects to remain in the White House for four more years. Affirmation of that reality now comes in the form of a far-reaching poll measuring both the preferences and attitudes of the American people – conducted among 2,905 registered voters by the respected Harvard-Harris Poll. The conclusion is unmistakable. Joe Biden is hanging on for dear life.
But before we break down the many components of the poll, let’s admit that the value of polls has been brought into greater question than ever since 2016 when Donald Trump shocked the world – and the pollsters. And 2022 was the latest misfire, with the intelligentsia expecting Republicans to breeze, rather than struggle so mightily, to gain control of the House. Indeed, the track record of public surveys on election outcomes is shaky enough to question their efficacy or even their veracity. In fact, many believe they are designed to shape public opinion rather than reflect it.
However, the same cannot be said of polling on questions apart from political races – specifically, issues and approval. How people feel on a range of subjects and the degree to which they approve of various public figures and institutions represents raw data that has historically tracked more accurately and been more predictive than forecasts on head-to-head matchups. It’s one thing for a poll to indicate people are generally dissatisfied with Joe Biden, for example, but quite another to predict he will be defeated by Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis. Likewise, exit polls which have gone badly off the rails in predicting actual outcomes have also provided relatively unfiltered insight into the minds of Americans.
Just How Bad Are Things for Joe Biden?
No matter how you cut it – by issues, or approval, or in prospective matchups with either of his likely GOP opponents – the latest Harvard-Harris poll provides scant reason for optimism in the White House. In fact, if he was not the incumbent, it is fair to say precious few Democrats would favor 80-year-old Joe Biden to head their ticket in 2024. As it is, the poll reveals a whopping 60% of voters say he should not run again, 65% think he is too old to be president, and 56% doubt his fitness for office. Worse than that for Biden, only 36% now believe the country is on the right track, compared to the Biden-era high of 53% in the summer of 2021.
So, what is the likelihood that Biden can flip the engine into reverse and return to anywhere near or beyond the height of his tepid approval, which peaked in the mid-40’s? Well, 80% of respondents in this survey believe the nation is headed for a recession – if not already in – while they experience the worst inflation in decades. It is an unfortunate truism for Biden that people always vote their own financial and economic interests above all else, barring unique circumstances such as world wars or 9/11. Heck, even 40% of Democrats disapprove of his handling of the economy.
Biden’s overall approval rating stands at 43%, well below any standard thought necessary for re-election, at least since Harry Truman overcame what appeared to be very long odds – and 40% approval – to return to the White House in 1948 (but the last poll that year was conducted five months before the election and Truman’s famous cross-country whistle-stop tour).
The poll also reveals that Biden’s losses have been Republicans’ gains. Congressional approval, at 28% in June of 2022, has risen to 40% since Republicans won control of the House, and the party’s overall approval is now above water (52%), and four points higher than Democrats (48%).
History certainly provides no solace for Mr. Biden. Donald Trump stood at 44% approval when he failed to gain a second term in 2020. President George H.W. Bush dropped an incredible 60 points from the height of his approval, 89% following the 1991 Gulf War, to 29% in the final days before his defeat in the 1992 election. Jimmy Carter stood at 37% on the eve of his landslide defeat by Ronald Reagan.
The trend also carries over reliably to succeeding races with different candidates for president. The approval rating for George W. Bush in his final year in office dropped as low as 22%, signaling an almost certain regime change in the 2008 election. And sure enough, John McCain was crushed beneath the “yes we can” Obama wave. In 2012, once exit polls revealed that some 50% of voters believed then-former President George W. Bush and Republicans were mostly to blame for the great recession that had started four years prior to that year’s Obama-Romney presidential race, it was clear Romney would lose badly.
In sharp contrast, every president since Truman who won re-election stood at or near the so-called magic number of 50% approval on Election Day, long considered a reliable indicator of the likelihood of an incumbent capturing four more years. George W. Bush weighed in at 50%, Barack Obama at 49%, Bill Clinton at 54%, and Ronald Reagan at 58%, according to Gallup.
Whether head-to-head results mean a lot or a little 18 months before the 2024 election, the outlook gets no rosier for Biden in a prospective race against likely – or even unlikely – Republican opponents. The poll reveals he is neck-and-neck with longshot Nikki Haley and down three points to DeSantis.
But most notably, Biden trails Donald Trump by four points. What does it say about this 46th president that he is losing to a man who was brutalized by his enemies like no president in history, impeached twice, charged with inciting an insurrection in a nationally televised Soviet-style show trial, may soon be under indictment – while facing at least two other criminal investigations – and whose political career was supposed to have ended on January 6, 2021?
It says the outlook for Joe Biden is grim.
All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Liberty Nation.
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