4 reasons the latest polls are awful for Biden

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The bad polls for President Joe Biden came one after the other this weekend.

A day after Democrats dragged a New York Times/Siena College poll that showed the president falling 4 points behind his likely Republican opponent, former President Donald Trump, in a general election matchup, Sunday brought an additional three major surveys also showing Trump leading amid broad and deep dissatisfaction with the incumbent.

And when it comes to Trump, many seem to have abandoned misgivings they had about him during his time in office — or during his tumultuous exit.

Polls are not predictions, as the White House and Biden surrogates are quick to remind the media and nervous Democrats in the wake of each new round of hard-to-stomach toplines. They have also said they expect that when push comes to shove, they believe voters will decide they have to pick Biden over Trump.

“Polling continues to be at odds with how Americans vote, and consistently overestimates Donald Trump while underestimating President Biden,” Biden’s campaign communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement. “Whether it's in special elections or in the presidential primaries, actual voter behavior tells us a lot more than any poll does and it tells a very clear story: Joe Biden and Democrats continue to outperform while Donald Trump and the party he leads are weak, cash-strapped, and deeply divided."

But voters seem to be delivering the same messages over and over again in opinion surveys. Here are some of the red flags that keep popping up in Biden’s national polls.

Age and physical/mental capacity

Voters continue to be troubled by Biden’s age and perceived acuity. Forty-five percent of those who responded in the New York Times/Siena poll said that Biden’s age “is such a problem that he is not capable of handling the job of president,” while 26 percent said it “makes him ineffective, but he is still able to handle the job of president well enough.” Only 25 percent said they somewhat or strongly disagreed with the premise.

Despite Trump’s own mix-ups and misstatements (in North Carolina on Saturday, he referred to the president as “Obama”), and the fact that, at 77, he’s not even four years younger than Biden, more than half (55 percent) of those in the Times poll said they somewhat or strongly disagreed that his age made him ineffective or incapable of carrying out the duties of the presidency.

In Sunday’s CBS News/YouGov poll, 45 percent said only Trump was physically healthy enough to serve as president, compared to 17 percent who said only Biden was. Nearly three-in-10, 29 percent, said neither. And 43 percent said only Trump would have the mental fitness for another term, compared to Biden’s 26 percent. (A quarter said neither.)

The economy

Despite months of good economic news and a long-shot “soft landing” from post-pandemic inflation, Americans can’t seem to shake the feeling that the economy is in rough shape. Nearly three quarters,74 percent, of those in the Times poll said the economy today is in poor or only fair shape, while 26 percent classified it as good or excellent.

And in the CBS News poll, 49 percent of respondents said today’s economy is in very good or fairly good condition, while 57 percent said the current conditions are very or fairly bad. Despite a pandemic-induced crash during Trump’s final year in office, 65 percent remember the economy under Trump as being very or fairly good, while only 28 percent remember it as being very or fairly bad.

There are some green shoots in the polling data when it comes to the economy: A new Wall Street Journal poll found upticks in the percentage of voters who said the economy had gotten better over the past two years and their personal finances were headed in the right direction. But the poll also showed little benefit for Biden in the more positive outlook.


The top issue for voters in the Wall Street Journal poll was immigration: 20 percent picked it when asked for the issue that most comes to mind for their 2024 presidential vote, more than the economy (14 percent) or abortion (8 percent). Though Biden has escalated his rhetoric on the issue, punting the blame on congressional Republicans who recently blocked a bipartisan border bill, voters still seem to believe that Trump would do more to stem the flow.

A plurality, 45 percent, of those who took the CBS News survey consider the situation a crisis, and half think a second Biden term would mean an increase in the number of migrants coming over the border. Twenty-two percent predicted another Biden presidency would bring a decrease in crossing. Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) think a second Trump would result in a decrease in migrants attempting to cross the southern border — only nine percent think a Trump victory would mean more crossing attempts.

And at least some increase in restrictions on the border garnered substantial support in the New York Times/Siena poll. Half of respondents said they strongly or somewhat support making it harder for migrants at the southern border to seek asylum in the United States – compared to 43 percent who somewhat or strongly oppose the idea.


Trump beat Biden in a head-to-head matchup in all four of the major polls out this weekend — but by only a few points.

Notably, in two of the polls — the New York Times/Siena and Fox News surveys — former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley runs stronger than Trump in a head-to-head matchup with Biden. But Trump is still leading, and Haley is likely to get crushed by the former president on Super Tuesday.

It’s not every poll — Biden holds a lead over Trump in a February Quinnipiac poll (though Trump has narrowed that lead since January). The November election is still eight months away, Trump has yet to officially secure his party’s nomination and any of the 91 criminal indictments he’s currently facing could upend the election. "Our campaign is ignoring the noise and running a strong campaign to win — just like we did in 2020," Tyler said Sunday night.

But Biden has regularly lagged behind the former president when the two are pitted against each other in polls.