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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

Biden's epic failures

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

In the two months since signing the $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, President Biden has by almost every measure bombed big time on the things that matter most.

The big picture: Biden, who marks one year in office next Thursday, has never been less popular nationally, after personally lobbying his party and the public on Build Back Better and voting rights — and failing.

Focus group: Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images 

As President Biden approaches the one-year mark of his presidency, some swing voters say his handling of the pandemic has weakened him in their eyes.

  • But they see him projecting strength when he talks about protecting American democracy.

Driving the news: These were key takeaways from the latest Engagious/Schlesinger swing-voter focus groups for Axios, conducted Tuesday, just days after the president's Jan. 6 anniversary speech.

Biden hosts Manchin and Sinema at White House to push for voting rights reform

President Biden speaks to reporters after a meeting with Senate Democrats in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden met with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) at the White House on Thursday night to discuss voting rights after they reaffirmed their opposition to reforming the filibuster, per the White House.

Why it matters: Biden and other Democrats want the Senate's filibuster rules changed in order to pass voting rights legislation.