Even before he became president, the now-79-year-old Joe Biden faced serious and persistent questions about his mental health. Among average Americans, those questions have become a major issue, the latest I&I/TIPP Poll shows.
The I&I/TIPP Poll, conducted online from Aug. 2-4 among 1,335 adults nationwide, shows that a 59% majority now say they are “very concerned” (36%) or “somewhat concerned” about Biden’s mental health.
That compares with just 39% saying they are “not very concerned” (18%) or “not at all concerned” (21%). Only 2% of respondents said they were “not sure.” The poll has a margin of error of +/-2.8 percentage points.
As is most often the case when the public is asked about a politician, the perception of the president’s mental health varies sharply by party affiliation.
Among Democrats, for instance, just 39% of Democrats say they are worried about Biden’s mental condition, versus 82% of Republicans and 56% of independents. But that 39% of Democrats, while not a majority, is still significantly high.
Fifty-eight percent of Democrats say they’re not concerned with Biden’s mental health. That compares with just 17% of Republicans and 39% of independents.
Otherwise, among the various demographic categories, responses were surprisingly uniform. Men and women, for instance, were identical in their concern over Biden’s mental health at 59% each, while those saying they weren’t concerned included 39% of men and 38% of women.
Broken down by ethnicity and race, solid majorities of both Hispanics (61%) and whites (63%) expressed concerns over Biden’s mental condition. One group was a noticeable exception: blacks, among whom just 44% said they’re worried about Biden’s mental state, while 53% said they aren’t.
Even looking at responses by age group didn’t show much difference, with 59% of those 18-24, 62% of those 25-44, 57% of those 45-64, and 56% of those 65 and over saying they were worried about the commander in chief’s mental well-being.
The fact is, based on these polling data, there is genuine concern among virtually all groups over Biden’s cognitive health. It has taken on political urgency with the looming 2022 midterm elections, which, if Republicans prevail, could well turn Biden into a lame duck.
The issue, which became prominent with Biden’s pandemic “basement campaign” during the 2020 presidential election, gained further traction after he took office in January 2021 and began making a series of verbal gaffes.
Rep. Ronny Jackson, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House physician, underscored Biden’s troubles in several attention-getting Tweets that suggested Biden was suffering from age-related mental impairment. Jackson’s remarks came after Biden responded to a reporter’s question about defunding the police by saying Republicans were accusing him of “sucking the blood” out of kids.
While that comment earned Jackson a personal rebuke from Obama himself, recent reports have been no less questioning. Even the mainstream media have picked up on the debate, understanding it could be a hurdle for congressional Democrats come November.
The left-leaning Atlantic Monthly created a stir in June when, bringing up the age question in “Why Biden Shouldn’t Run Again,” Mark Leibovitch wrote: “Let me put this bluntly: Joe Biden should not run for reelection in 2024. He is too old.”
Also in June, in a piece titled “The Taboo Lifts on Discussing Biden’s Age,” the conservative National Review snarked: “Hey, seemingly overnight, discussing Joe Biden’s age, memory, and mental state isn’t ‘gross, lowest-common-denominator politics‘ anymore!”
A Wall Street Journal editorial wryly observed: “Democrats and the media suddenly discover the President is old.”
Jumping into the fray, the New York Times recently noted, “President Biden has said he plans to run for a second term, but his age has become an uncomfortable issue for him and his party,” as if to prove the Journal’s point.
So the once-out-of-bounds topic of Biden’s age and mental fitness for office is now, clearly, no longer forbidden.
And, as we noted, it has a political dimension. Even Democrats talk about it, though often off the record.
The GOP, meanwhile, has been very much on the record. Last winter, a group of 38 Republican lawmakers sent a letter urging Biden to take a cognitive test, noting that former President Donald Trump had done so after some questioned his mental acuity. Trump passed.
“We believe that, regardless of gender, age, or political party, all presidents should follow the example set by former President (Donald) Trump to document and demonstrate sound mental abilities,” the lawmakers said.
“While you underwent your annual physical exam on Nov. 19, 2021, you either did not have a cognitive test or those results were withheld from the public. White House Physician Kevin O’Connor, D.O., attested to you being ‘fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency’ in a purely physical manner; however, we are worried about your cognitive and mental abilities.”
A group of 54 House members, all Republican, sent yet another letter to Biden in late July, asking him to “immediately undergo a cognitive test and share the results with the American people.”
Whether such tests are administered or not, the perception among average Americans is that Biden’s mental acuity and overall mental health are a grave concern. Given Biden’s comment that he plans to run again in 2024, when he’ll turn 82, those concerns are likely to increase in coming months.
Each month, I&I/TIPP publishes polling data on this topic and others of broad public interest. TIPP’s reputation for excellence comes from 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.