Feb 12, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Dems' 2024 disconnect

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There's a gaping divide in the Democratic Party between institutional public opinion — party leaders, lawmakers, donors, consultants — and the actual voters who ultimately decide elections, recent polling shows.

Why it matters: President Biden has all but erased internal Democratic Party criticism. But only three postwar presidents had lower approval ratings than Biden at this point in their presidency.

  • Biden's job approval rating is 43%, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average.
  • Nearly half (45%) of Americans had no confidence in Biden's ability to make the right decisions for the country's future, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll just before the State of the Union.
  • Only 16% of respondents in the poll said they were better off financially than when Biden became president — compared to 41% who said they were worse off.

Zoom in: Doubts about Biden's age (80) have all but vanished from institutional Democrats' public conversation. The DNC has neutralized the influence of Iowa and New Hampshire, where an intraparty rebellion could have started.

Zoom out: Public perception of the economy's health will be a major factor in Biden's political standing. Biden used his SOTU address to tout the economy's resilience — pointing to record-low unemployment and claiming the fastest economic growth in 40 years.

  • But worries about persistent inflation persist. Just 20% of Americans rated the economy as "excellent" or "good" in last week's Fox News poll.

Reality check: Biden's biggest ally is the unpopularity of the GOP opposition — particularly former President Trump.

  • Democrats overperformed in last year's midterms: Whatever hesitations voters held toward Biden, Republican candidates were viewed as too extreme.
  • The divisions among Republicans over spending cuts and changes to Social Security and Medicare, highlighted in the GOP's heated response to Biden's address, will also be a useful foil for the White House in making the next election a choice more than a referendum.

The bottom line: The vibes in Washington are growing bullish on Biden's re-election prospects. But polling shows voters aren't optimistic about their own economic futures. And a majority of Democrats want a new standard-bearer for 2024.

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