Gloomy landscape for Democrats for midterms as Biden's approval drops to 38%: USA TODAY/Suffolk poll

Susan Page and Rick Rouan, USA TODAY 21 mins ago

A year before the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans hold a clear early lead on the congressional ballot as President Joe Biden's approval rating sinks to a new low of 38%.
Full A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, taken Wednesday through Friday, found that Biden's support had cratered among the independent voters who delivered his margin of victory over former President Donald Trump one year ago.
Biden and his party are poised for a rebound, advocates argue, after the House late Friday passed the $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill, sending the signature measure to Biden's desk for his signature. An encouraging economic report released Friday morning also showed stronger-than-expected job growth.

© Samuel Corum, Getty Images President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference in the State Dining Room at the White House on November 6, 2021 following the passage in the House of the bipartisan infrastructure package.
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That said, the survey illuminates the size of the hole that Democrats need to dig out of as they look toward the elections in one year – on Nov. 8, 2022 – that will determine control of Congress and shape the second two years of Biden's term.
At the moment, views of the president have soured.
Among key findings:

  • Nearly half of those surveyed, 46%, said Biden has done a worse job as president than they expected, including 16% of those who voted for him. Independents by 7-1 (44%-6%) said he's done worse, not better, than they expected.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans, 64%, said they didn't want Biden to run for a second term in 2024. That included 28% of Democrats. Opposition to Trump running for another term in 2024 was nearly as high, at 58%. That included 24% of Republicans.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris' approval rating was 28% – even worse than Biden's. The poll showed that 51% disapproved of the job she's doing. One in five, 21%, were undecided.
  • Americans overwhelmingly supported the infrastructure bill that Biden is about to sign. But they were split on the more expensive and more far-reaching Build Back Better Act now being debated in Congress. Only one in four said the bill's provisions would help them and their families.

If the election were today, those surveyed said they would vote for their local Republican congressional candidate over the Democratic one by 46%-38%, an advantage that would bode well for GOP hopes of gaining a majority in the House and the Senate. In a president's first midterm election, his party usually loses ground, and this time the GOP needs to flip just five seats in the House and one in the Senate to claim control.

That outcome would make it even harder for Biden to pass legislation – already a difficult task with a Democratic-controlled Congress – and open the door to aggressive Republican oversight of his administration.
The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cell phone, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Tony Emmi, 62, a retired health-care worker from Wilmington, Delaware, who was among those surveyed, voted for Biden for president and derided Trump as "deceitful" and "malicious." But the Democrat also said Biden wasn't doing enough to hold his party to account and get things done.
"I think this country is moving in a direction that is dangerous," Emmi said.
Two-thirds of Americans (66%) said the country has gotten off on the wrong track; just one in five (20%) said it was headed in the right direction. That's no better than the public's uneasy view during the final weeks of the Trump administration.
'Stuff that's keeping me up at night'

The infrastructure bill, which passed Friday with some bipartisan support, was backed by 2-1 (61%-32%) among those surveyed. The supporters included a third of Republicans.
"We're not keeping our infrastructure updated – I don't mean currently updated, I mean since 1930 some of these things have been in place," Kathleen Loyd, 70, a retired juvenile-court officer from Piedmont, in southeast Missouri, said in an interview. She is dodging potholes while she drives and had to remodel her kitchen after a water main broke.
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But Americans are closely divided on the "Build Back Better" Act that congressional Democrats are now pressing. In the poll, 47% supported the $1.85 trillion bill; 44% opposed it. The sweeping measure includes more than $500 billion in climate-change and clean-energy funding; establishes universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds; extends the child tax credit for one year; expands Medicaid coverage in some states; adds hearing coverage to Medicare and finances affordable housing programs.

© Jose Luis Magana, AP President Biden walks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Oct. 28, 2021 as he pushed his revised domestic policy bill and a related bipartisan infrastructure plan with fractious House Democrats.The White House and its allies haven't persuaded most Americans that the measure would benefit them, at least not yet. Those surveyed were a bit more likely to say its provisions would hurt their families rather than help them, 30%-26%. Another 31% said it would not have much effect.
Those findings reflect either a failure of communication by the bill's backers or a disconnect with what voters feel they most need.
"Is this spending bill out of control? I don't know," said Nia Anderson, 45, a stay-at-home mother of three in Minnesota's Twin Cities. She voted for Biden and thinks he's doing "fine," but added, "I'm worried about my kids, and I'm worried about my family."
She was getting ready to take her children, ages 13, 9 and 6, across town to get the COVID-19 vaccine. "That's the stuff that's keeping me up at night," she said.
In the poll, Congress got dismal ratings: 12% approve, 75% disapprove. Congressional Democrats had a 29% favorable rating; congressional Republicans 35%.
Biden's job-approval rating was dismal, too, at 38% approve, 59% disapprove. He has the lowest rating of any modern president at this point in his term except for Trump. Studies have concluded that a president's job-approval rating is one of the most powerful factors affecting midterm elections.
The party of a president with an approval rating that has dipped below 50% often faces a blowout. In the 2017 midterms, when Trump's approval was at 37%, Republicans lost 41 House seats. In the 1994 midterms, when president Bill Clinton's approval was at 48%, Democrats lost 54.

© BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI, AFP via Getty Images US President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks at a ceremony marking the 10th Anniversary dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, in Washington, DC, on October 21, 2021. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)Last week, Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor in a closely watched off-year election in Virginia, In the poll, 48% agreed the outcome was a "telling sign of a Republican sweep in 2022." Thirty-nine percent said it was "one state election and doesn't have national implications."

Biden loses ground with voters who backed him 2020

Biden has lost ground with voters since he won last year's election, but Trump hasn't gained it. Over the past year, two-thirds of those surveyed said their opinion of Trump hasn't changed. Fourteen percent said their view of him had gotten better, 19% said it had gotten worse.
Trump continued to command more loyalty among his core supporters than Biden did, however.
Among those who voted for Biden last year, almost four in 10, 39%, said they hoped he didn't run for another term; 50% hoped he would run. Among those who voted for Trump last year, one in four, 26%, hoped he won't run again; 65% hoped he would.
"I thought he did a great job then and I know he'll do a great job in the future," said Lynda Ensenat, 54, a Trump voter and independent insurance adjuster from New Orleans. "There's a whole lot going wrong in this society right now, and all the Democrat liberals – that's what they're 100% for."
She said Biden has "been wrong on absolutely everything he's touched."
If the presidential election were today between Biden and Trump, 44% said they would vote for Trump, 40% for Biden, 11% for an unnamed third-party candidate. In the election last year, Biden beat Trump 54%-47%.
Kathleen Loyd, the retiree from Missouri, used to think of herself as a Democrat but voted for Trump in 2016 and then left the presidential ballot blank in 2020. She's so disenchanted with politics that she has stopped watching news coverage as closely as she once did.
She worries that Biden isn't competent but also says her local Republican congressman is pandering to the right with a false claim that the president didn't win the election, and she hates the name-calling that is now commonplace in politics.
"I don't think anybody is talking to the average American citizen," she said.

Gloomy landscape for Democrats for midterms as Biden's approval drops to 38%: USA TODAY/Suffolk poll (