Jan 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

White House criticizes bleak “outlier” Quinnipiac Biden poll

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer O'Malley Dillon is seen speaking with White House counsel Dana Remus last July
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer O'Malley Dillon speaks with White House counsel Dana Remus last July. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House deputy chief of staff Jennifer O’Malley Dillon is publicly attacking a new poll that gave President Biden a 33% approval rating, using the full weight of her office to call it an “outlier,” according to a memo shared with Axios.

Why it matters: By releasing a memo questioning the Quinnipiac University poll’s methodology, the White House is demonstrating how seriously it takes negative perceptions of the president’s job performance at the outset of a critical midterm year.

  • It's also acknowledging the president’s approval rating is well underwater — just not as deep as Quinnipiac found.
  • “The FiveThirtyEight average of all public polls finds the president’s approval is at 43% approval,” O’Malley Dillon writes. “Quinnipiac, on the other hand, is at 33% approval. This is drastically different from all other recent polls."
  • The poll, released Wednesday, showed 53% of Americans disapproved of the job Biden is doing, with 13% telling the pollster they didn’t have an opinion.
  • "We stand by our numbers," said Doug Schwartz, associate vice president and director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

The big picture: Since the summer, Biden has been battered by events and his own miscalculations.

  • His signature Build Back Better agendas stalled in Congress, and his push for voting rights was undercut by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) right before he arrived in the Senate on Thursday to lobby for it with his fellow Democrats.
  • His administration was first caught flat-footed by the Delta variant of COVID-19 and now appears a step behind the Omicron variant as it surges across the country.
  • Also Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected his plan to force large companies to impose vaccine mandates on their employees.
  • His poll numbers turned sharply negative after America's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, during which 13 service members were killed by a suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul.

What they're saying: “What you see in most of these polls is a real frustration and exhaustion with COVID and the fact that it’s not over,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

  • “We share that. We understand that. People are fatigued across the country.”

Flashback: Throughout the campaign and as president, Biden has been dismissive of polling.

  • “Polls are going to up and down and up and down,” he said at the G-20 summit in Rome last October. “They were high early, then they got medium, then they went back up and now they’re low."

Go deeper: In her critique, O’Malley Dillon targets the poll’s use of so-called “random digit dialing." She says the practice has been abandoned by many major polling organizations.

  • She also suggests Quinnipiac is allowing too many respondents to give a “don’t know” answer when asked about the job the president is doing, and therefore undercounts some soft support for the president.
  • “In this most recent poll, their 'don’t know' share was 11%, while the 538 average was 6%.”

Go deeper: Read the memo.

Go deeper