Democrats sour on Biden, citing age and economy
By Shane Goldmacher
President Joe Biden is facing an alarming level of doubt from inside his own party, with 64% of Democratic voters saying they would prefer a new standard-bearer in the 2024 presidential campaign, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll, as voters nationwide have soured on his leadership, giving him a meager 33% job-approval rating.
Widespread concerns about the economy and inflation have helped turn the national mood decidedly dark, both on Biden and the trajectory of the nation. More than three-quarters of registered voters see the United States moving in the wrong direction, a pervasive sense of pessimism that spans every corner of the country, every age range and racial group, cities, suburbs and rural areas, as well as both political parties.
Only 13% of American voters said the nation was on the right track — the lowest point in Times polling since the depths of the financial crisis more than a decade ago.
For Biden, that bleak national outlook has pushed his job approval rating to a perilously low point. Republican opposition is predictably overwhelming, but more than two-thirds of independents also now disapprove of the president’s performance, and nearly half disapprove strongly. Among fellow Democrats his approval rating stands at 70%, a relatively low figure for a president, especially heading into the 2022 midterms when Biden needs to rally Democrats to the polls to maintain control of Congress.
In a sign of deep vulnerability and of unease among what is supposed to be his political base, only 26% of Democratic voters said the party should renominate him in 2024.
Biden has said repeatedly that he intends to run for reelection in 2024. At 79, he is already the oldest president in American history, and concerns about his age ranked at the top of the list for Democratic voters who want the party to find an alternative.
The backlash against Biden and desire to move in a new direction were particularly acute among younger voters. In the survey, 94% of Democrats younger than 30 said they would prefer a different presidential nominee.
“I’m just going to come out and say it: I want younger blood,” said Nicole Farrier, a 38-year-old preschool teacher in East Tawas, a small town in northern Michigan. “I am so tired of all old people running our country. I don’t want someone knocking on death’s door.”
Farrier, a Democrat who voted for Biden in 2020, said she had hoped he might have been able to do more to heal the nation’s divisions, but now, as a single mother, she is preoccupied with what she described as crippling increases in her cost of living. “I went from living a comfortable lifestyle to I can’t afford anything anymore,” she said.
Jobs and the economy were the most important problem facing the country according to 20% of voters, with inflation and the cost of living (15%) close behind as prices are rising at the fastest rate in a generation. One in 10 voters named the state of American democracy and political division as the most pressing issue, about the same share who named gun policies, after several high-profile mass shootings.
More than 75% of voters in the poll said the economy was “extremely important” to them. And yet only 1% rated economic conditions as excellent. Among those who are typically working age — voters 18 to 64 years old — only 6% said the economy was good or excellent, while 93% rated it poor or only fair.
The White House has tried to trumpet strong job growth, including on Friday when Biden declared that he had overseen “the fastest and strongest jobs recovery in American history.” But the Times/Siena poll showed a vast disconnect between those boasts, and the strength of some economic indicators, and the financial reality that most Americans feel they are confronting.
“We used to spend $200 a week just going out to have fun, or going and buying extra groceries if we needed it, and now we can’t even do that,” said Kelly King, a former factory worker in Greensburg, Indiana, who is currently sidelined because of a back injury. “We’re barely able to buy what we need.”
King, 38, said she didn’t know if Biden was necessarily to blame for the spiking prices of gas and groceries but felt he should be doing more to help. “I feel like he hasn’t really spoken much about it,” King said. “He hasn’t done what I think he’s capable of doing as president to help the American people. As a Democrat, I figured he would really be on our side and put us back on the right track. And I just feel like he’s not.”
Now, she said, she is hoping Republicans take over Congress in November to course-correct.
One glimmer of good news for Biden is that the survey showed him with a narrow edge in a hypothetical rematch in 2024 with former President Donald Trump: 44% to 41%.
On the whole, voters appeared to like Biden more than they like his performance as president, with 39% saying they have a favorable impression of him — six percentage points higher than his job approval.
In saying they wanted a different nominee in 2024, Democrats cited a variety of reasons, with the most in an open-ended question citing his age (33%), followed closely by unhappiness with how he is doing the job. About 1 in 8 Democrats just said that they wanted someone new, and 1 in 10 said he was not progressive enough. Smaller fractions expressed doubts about his ability to win and his mental acuity.
The Times/Siena survey of 849 registered voters nationwide was conducted July 5-7, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion, which had been protected for half a century. The ruling sent Democrats into the streets and unleashed an outpouring of political contributions.
Biden’s base, in 2020 and now, remains Black voters. They delivered the president a 62% job-approval rating — higher marks than any other race or ethnicity, age group or education level. But even among that constituency, there are serious signs of weakening. On the question of renominating Biden in 2024, slightly more Black Democratic voters said they wanted a different candidate than said they preferred Biden.
“Anybody could be doing a better job than what they’re doing right now,” said Clifton Heard, a 44-year-old maintenance specialist in Foley, Alabama.
An independent, he said he voted for Biden in 2020 but is disillusioned over the state of the economy and the spiraling price of gas, and is now reconsidering Trump.
“I understand that they’ve got a tough job,” he said of Biden’s administration. “He wasn’t prepared to do the job.”