Analysis: Biden Approval Rising, Cong Generic Turns Positive for Dems

Analysis: Biden’s Approval Rising, Congressional Generic Turns Positive for Dems

5 new polls out this week show a meaningful improvement in Joe Biden’s approval rating from polls taken by these same organizations in mid-February:  

Marist                          47-51 (-4) from 40-55 (-15)   11 pt shift

Economist/YouGov     45-49 (-4) from 41-55 (-14)    10 pt shift

Trafalgar Group          42-52 (-10) from 39-58 (-19)    9 pt shift (GOP poll)

Quinnipiac                  40-51 (-11) from 37-56 (-19)     8 pt shift

Morning Consult         45-51 (-6) from 44-54 (-10)      4 pt shift

Navigator/GSG           45-53 (-8) from 43-55 (-12)      4 pt shift

Over the past few weeks every poll which tracks the Congressional Generic (will you vote Dem or GOP for Congress?) has shown Democrats ahead, after a period where Republicans had held a slight lead.  Remarkably, and perhaps ominously for the Republicans, the Rs are not above 41% in the six most recent polls.  

A few thoughts on this data: 

Things are better - The national political landscape is clearly more favorable for the Democrats today than it was a month ago. What’s caused it? COVID receding, continued strong economy, a well-received State of the Union, strong management of Russia’s aggression have all surely contributed to a positive stretch for Democrats.  As we often say, Biden has been a good President, and at some point there was going to be a correction.  We are on the other side of COVID, the economy continues to boom, we did pass a landmark infrastructure bill which has begun rolling out across the country, he has done a good job managing Russia/Ukraine and revitalizing the West.  Things are better in America, and perhaps the easing of COVID is allowing people to be more open now to the real progress we’ve made as a nation.  

What about inflation? This data is a bit problematic for those who’ve been arguing Biden’s approval has been held down primarily due to inflation.  Over the past month as his numbers have risen inflation has been higher than it’s ever been.  This means there are other things more important to voters than inflation – like COVID, a strong recovery, mobilizing against Putin for example.  It’s not that inflation isn’t important, it is of course.  But as we’ve been writing for months the role of inflation in our politics has been exaggerated, or at least is, for the voters open to Democrats, a secondary not a primary concern.   If inflation was as important as many say it is Biden/Dem numbers should not be rising at a time when inflation is also rising.   

Running the new Navigator data through our modeled Dem electorate (see here for an explanation of this model), inflation ranks 5th as an issue of concern right now: 

Jobs/Economy       51%

Nat Sec/Ukraine    47%

COVID                   37%

Climate                  34%

Inflation                  33%

Health Care           31%

From today’s Navigator report: “Since President Biden’s State of the Union address and update on the state of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are increasingly positive about his handling of it. President Biden’s handling of the pandemic is net +7 (52 percent approve – 45 percent disapprove), an 8-point positive swing since our last survey in late February (net -1; 48 percent approve – 49 percent disapprove). This shift is largely driven by Independents who have swung from net -22 to net -2; approval of Biden’s handling of the pandemic is highest among Democrats (83 percent), Black Americans (74 percent), and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (73 percent). Additionally, trust in Biden and Democrats to combat the pandemic more than Republicans saw a similar net +7 uptick (up to an 18-point advantage from 11 points two weeks ago), and by a 42-point margin, Americans approve of the vaccine rollout in the United States (67 percent approved – 25 percent disapprove), the highest rating in our tracking since late November.”

It's been our contention for some time that the drop in the President’s approval of his handling of COVID (30 pts from May of 2021 to Feb of 2022) on the most important issue for Democratic voters was the primary thing driving down his overall approval rating.  This new data appears to confirm this, and suggests Democrats need to stay vigilant and do everything they can to prevent a return of COVID this year.  

Obviously, Putin’s war makes it likely that inflation may be with us this year for longer than economists had anticipated.  But we need to be clear that from now on the inflation that comes is due to Putin, and that our job is to keep the boom booming, wages rising while working to end the war and get global food and energy prices back to normal levels. Democratic voters, as our saliency table above shows, also expect us to be leading on climate and decarbonization, something the President has hit very hard this week. This is the moment to pass the rest of the Biden climate agenda, and help give America true energy independence by embracing a cleaner, cheaper, and far less geopolitically dangerous energy future.  

We need to keep selling the Biden Boom - It should be noted that this week’s Navigator while finding improvement for Biden on COVID and his overall approval rating, still finds significant underperformance for him on an array of economic issues, despite an ongoing boom.  Most alarming continues to be the lack of understanding that a boom is happening, reminding us again that we have work to do to make sure the electorate is aware of just how successful Biden’s economic stewardship has been.  

The following Navigator chart should be sitting on the desk of every Democratic operative.  For what it shows that even Democratic voters do not understand the economy was better in 2021 than 2020.  And that my friends is a political communication failure, one which can and must be addressed in the months ahead.