Issues & Insights and its polling partner, TIPP, recently wrote (here and here) that only 42% of Americans believe President Joe Biden is “mentally sharp,” while 50% said he isn’t. But other I&I/TIPP data from our same November poll show Biden’s problems with how average Americans perceive him and his leadership go far deeper.
These numbers clearly show that, across a broad swath of the American electorate, Biden has serious issues, with many no longer thinking he has the main common attributes for being a good or competent leader.
We asked those responding their level of “agreement or disagreement with the following descriptions of President Joe Biden.” The proposed descriptions included “Energetic,” “Unifier,” “Inspires confidence,” “Good communicator,” and “Trustworthy.”
In none of those questions did Biden get either an overall majority or even a plurality of voters who agreed with the positive descriptions.
For “Energetic,” 42% agreed, versus 50% who disagreed. Similar data were found for “Unifier” (41% agreed, 45% disagreed), and “Inspires confidence” (44% agree, 48% disagree). Only for “Good communicator” (47% agree, 47% disagree) and “Trustworthy” (46% agree, 46% disagree) did Biden break even.
The data come from the November I&I/TIPP Poll of 1,306 adults. The poll was conducted online from Oct. 27-29 by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, I&I’s polling partner. The margin of error is +/-2.8 percentage points.
Perhaps predictably, the responses of Democrats and Republicans revealed a sharp split. The gaps between them were in the double digits on all of the questions, underscoring just how polarized the two parties have become.
However, among independents and “others,” who together now make up roughly a third of all voter registrations, the numbers more resemble those of the Republicans than the Democrats.
The independent vote is increasingly important to both parties. Since 2000, the share of voters registering as independent has increased by 50%, making it the fast-growing major political bloc in the country. This largely centrist group of voters is now the majority in at least 10 states.
A Pew Research data dive in 2019 found that nearly four in 10 voters “identify” as independent, even if they’re actually registered with one party or another.
As such, they hold the key to whether the Democrats will get bounced from power by the GOP in 2022’s midterm elections, or whether the Democrats can rebound after a disastrous 2021 to maintain their hold on Congress and the presidency.
In light of this, how do independents view Biden, the de facto leader of his party?
Only 32% agreed he was “energetic,” while 58% disagreed. Just 29% called him a “unifier,” versus 52% who disagreed. As for “trustworthy,” 34% agreed compared to 54% who disagreed. Nor did Biden inspire confidence: 33% of independents agreed, while 54% didn’t. The late President Ronald Reagan was called the “Great Communicator” by many. Apparently, independents wouldn’t apply the same tag to Biden: 37% called him a “good communicator”; 53% disagreed.
One notable trend in the data: There are wide racial disparities in the responses, with whites and Hispanics mostly agreeing that Biden lacks many of these key presidential characteristics, while African-American voters remain overwhelmingly positive about Biden.
For example, 45% of Hispanics agreed that Biden was “energetic,” but 51% disagreed. For African-Americans, the comparable numbers were 65% agree, 24% disagree. An enormous gap. Among whites, only 36% agreed, while 57% disagreed, again, much closer to the Hispanic responses than to the black responses.
Similar numbers could be found for Biden as a “unifier” among Hispanics (43% agreed, 46% disagreed), blacks (64% agreed, 16% disagreed) and whites (34% agreed, 54% disagreed).
Is Biden “trustworthy”? Just 39% of whites agreed, while 54% disagreed. For Hispanics, 51% agreed, but a substantial 45% disagreed. Blacks again were strongly supportive of Biden, with 70% agreeing Biden was trustworthy, versus just 20% disagreeing.
Similar gaps were found for “Inspires confidence” and “good communicator.”
All in all, a very poor report card for the president and, by extension, the party he heads as 2021 winds down. A president who fails to unify the country after promising to do so and whom voters say doesn’t inspire confidence has a serious leadership problem.
Recent issues underscore Biden’s growing problems with voters. The sudden emergence of anti-Biden “Let’s go, Brandon” chants at sporting and other outdoor events around the country show an increasing impatience among voters with the president’s policies and leadership.
An even clearer sign came from the just-finished 2021 off-year elections, in which well-established Democrats lost to upstart, barely known Republican candidates, particularly in Virginia and New Jersey. Across the country, once solidly left-leaning local school boards added conservative or Republican voices to their number, while local anti-police resolutions largely failed.
The Biden administration, still only in its first year, finds itself besieged from both the right and left sides of the political spectrum.
Major Biden policy initiatives — including the $4 trillion “Build Back Better” legislation in Congress, COVID vaccine mandates, a raft of costly global warming plans and a proposal to deliver up to $450,000 to illegal immigrant families that become separated from their children — are at best highly controversial and at worst politically divisive.
Worse, his executive action to mandate vaccines for workers at companies that employ more than 100 and the entirely botched withdrawal from Afghanistan have led many to question his leadership abilities.
I&I/TIPP will continue to provide more informative data from our polls in the coming weeks and months on topics of interest to all Americans. TIPP has distinguished itself by being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.
Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.