It’s the latest manifestation of how American satisfaction with Biden and the direction of the country have turned sharply negative since the last time Biden addressed a joint session of Congress last April.
Biden has one of the worst approval ratings going into his first inaugural address of any president in the polling era. And his decline seems to come from younger Americans and non-Democrats who once supported the Democratic president.
When Biden spoke in front of Congress last April, his net approval rating was on the other side of the ledger. His net approval rating stood at +12 points.
Biden’s low popularity going into his first State of the Union is unusual. The average net approval for elected presidents at their first state of the union has been +33 points in the polling era.
That said, the two worst before Biden belonged to the last two presidents: Barack Obama in 2010 and Donald Trump in 2018. Obama came in with a net approval rating of +3 points, while Trump’s was even lower than Biden’s at -17 points.
In this era of high polarization, it was likely going to be difficult for Biden to be as popular as presidents of yesteryear.
Biden, though, has lost a lot of support since the election. He won the national popular vote against Trump by 4.5 points in 2020.
Pure independents and voters who lean or identify as Republicans make up 45% of those who voted for Biden but don’t currently approve of the job he is doing. They’re just 10% of those who approve of Biden and voted for him in 2020.
This isn’t to say Biden hasn’t lost support among voters who lean Democratic. His approval rating among them was 84% in our last poll, while 96% of them said they voted for Biden in the 2020 election.
It’s just that disproportionately he’s lost more support in the middle.
Perhaps counterintuitively, Biden’s also lost a disproportionate amount of support from younger Americans, who tend to lean more Democratic. Those younger than 45 make up 60% of the voters who say they cast a ballot for Biden in 2020 and don’t approve of the job he is doing. They’re only 33% of the voters who say they voted for Biden and approve of him.
Those younger than 45 said they voted for Biden by a 17-point margin. Biden’s net approval among 2020 voters in this group in this poll was nearly the inverse at -15 points. This is a 32-point difference.
Biden’s net approval among 2020 voters 45 and older was “only” 11 points lower (-14 points) than his margin with them in the election (-3 points).
Of course, it isn’t just that Americans are upset with Biden. They’re upset with how they view the country generally.
Since Gallup started asking that question in 1979, there has never been a president giving their first State of the Union when a lower percentage of Americans were satisfied with how the country was going.
As with Biden’s approval rating, the level of satisfaction with the state of the country is down significantly from last April. Back then, 34% said they were satisfied.
The question going forward is whether Biden can recover any of that good will? As the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows, there are bound to be events that can disrupt the status quo. The bad news for Biden is that it’s not clear if anything will change the minds of the voters by the time his party faces voters in November’s midterms.