By JOSH BOAK and EMILY SWANSON
WASHINGTON (AP) — Approval of President Joe Biden has dipped slightly since a month ago, nearing the lowest point of his presidency as his administration tries to project a sense of stability while confronting a pair of bank failures and inflation that remains stubbornly high.
That’s according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which shows there have been modest fluctuations in support for Biden over the past several months. The president notched an approval rating of 38% in the new poll, after 45% said they approved in February and 41% in January. His ratings hit their lowest point of his presidency last July, at 36%, as the full weight of rising gasoline, food and other costs began to hit U.S. households.
In recent months, approval of Biden had been hovering above 40%.
Interviews with poll respondents suggest the public has mixed feelings about Biden, who is expected to announce a reelection bid by this summer. When it comes to the president, people generally do not swing between the extremes of absolute loyalty and aggressive loathing that have been a feature of this era’s divided politics.
“Neutral towards approve,” Andrew Dwyer, 30, said of Biden. “I don’t think he’s the best at representing my position and issues. But I know being president involves compromises.”
Dwyer, a data analyst in Milwaukee, said he voted for the president in 2020 and considers himself to be liberal. He acknowledged the recent failures of the Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, but he said that the economy is adjusting to higher interest rates set by the Federal Reserve to combat inflation.
“We all got so used to cheap debt and the ability to throw money around,” Dwyer said. He said there were “pain points” caused by higher borrowing costs but that he thinks the process will “ultimately” lead to a healthier economy.
The president has taken ambitious steps to boost the U.S. economy, with his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package from 2021, infrastructure investments, support for computer chip plants and taxes on corporations and the wealthy to help fund health care and a shift away from fossil fuels.
But those efforts involve multiyear investments that have yet to provide much optimism to a public dealing with annual inflation at 6%. The president and other administration officials have toured the country to promote their achievements. But to many, the economy feels as though it could be on a knife’s edge after the recent bank failures, as well as the debt limit showdown with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that could put the U.S. government at risk of defaulting.
Just 31% approve of Biden’s stewardship of the national economy, about where it’s been over the course of the last year. His handling of the nation’s economic fortunes has been a weak point at least since late 2021, when the inflation that the administration had suggested was transitory became a bigger pain point for businesses and families.
Michael McComas, 51, voted Republican in 2020 and described Biden as “not great — average, I guess.” A resident of Westland, Michigan, he noted that it will take years to determine whether federal infrastructure spending fulfills the promises made by Biden.
McComas said he believes inflation is the direct result of government spending to counter the pandemic, a claim that Biden has personally rejected when asked by reporters.
“We poured so much money into the system — that’s a little frustrating that we were shocked that we got hit by inflation when a lot of our policies were inflationary,” McComas said.
The difference between Biden’s approval overall and his approval on the economy is driven largely by Democrats, 76% of whom say they approve of how he’s handling his job as president while 63% approve of his handling of the economy. Few Republicans approve of Biden on either count.
Democrats under the age of 45 feel less positive about Biden, causing a drag on his approval ratings. Just 54% approve of the president’s economic leadership, compared to 72% of Democrats older than 45. Similarly, just 66% of Democrats under 45 approve of Biden overall, compared to 85% of older Democrats.
Only about a quarter of Americans say the national economy is good or that the country is headed in the right direction, the poll shows. Those numbers have also fluctuated only slightly over the last few months.
Ratings of Biden’s handling of foreign policy (39%) and climate change (41%) are about on par with his overall approval ratings. Seventy-four percent of Democrats and 9% of Republicans approve of Biden on foreign policy, while 67% of Democrats and 17% of Republicans approve of his handling of climate change.
Theresa Ojuro, a 29-year-old doctoral student in Rochester, New York, said she “expected more” from Biden — “just a little bit more stability with the economy.” Ojuro, who voted for Biden in 2020, also noted that the bank failures are dragging down her sentiment, but she worries about how high taxes are in New York state relative to the benefits provided.
“If Biden is doing his job, why in a state like this can you see people really suffering?” Ojuro said.
The poll of 1,081 adults was conducted Mar. 16-20 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.