Just a third of Americans say President Joe Biden deserves to be reelected, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, as a majority in his party say they would like to see someone else as the Democratic nominee for president next year.
The survey fielded throughout the month of March and was completed almost entirely before a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict former President Donald Trump last week. It cannot reflect any shifts in public opinion after news of that vote was revealed. CNN polling released Monday, which was conducted after the vote to indict him, suggested that it had little effect on views of Trump himself.
The March poll suggests that just before the indictment, the uptick in views of Biden that had seemed to have been sparked by Democrats outperforming expectations in the 2022 midterms had stalled. The poll finds Biden’s approval rating at 42% overall, with 57% disapproving. In January, 45% approved and 55% disapproved. That shift falls within the poll’s margin of error and is not statistically significant.
On major issues, Biden’s numbers are also stagnant. His approval ratings for handling immigration (35% approve), the economy (37%) and gun policy (37%) all fall significantly below his overall approval rating. On national security (44% approve) and the US relationship with China (40% approve), his numbers are about the same as his overall approval rating. The only issue on which Biden significantly outperforms his overall standing is environmental policy, and even there, most disapprove (46% approve, 52% disapprove).
The poll also finds negative views of Biden persist across several personal attributes, with majorities saying he does not have the stamina and sharpness to serve effectively as president (67%), does not inspire confidence (65%), is not honest and trustworthy (54%) and does not care about people like them (54%). Americans are more evenly split over whether Biden can work effectively with Congress – 48% say he can, 51% that he cannot.
All told, just 32% say that Biden deserves reelection to the presidency, down 5 points since December and about on par with the 33% who said the same about Trump in November 2017. The largest shifts come among younger adults, with just 26% of those younger than 35 saying Biden deserves another term in the new poll, down from 36% in December, and among liberals, shifting from 63% saying he deserved reelection in December to 53% now.
Generally speaking, the vast majority of people who approve of a president’s performance also say that president deserves reelection, but the new poll suggests an unusually large group of Biden approvers currently say he does not deserve reelection. In September 2019, 3% of all Americans fell into that category for Trump, and just 5% did in March 2010 during Barack Obama’s presidency. For Biden, that number is significantly higher: 11% overall approve of Biden’s handling of the presidency and also say he does not deserve to be reelected.
This group differs from stronger Biden backers in key ways: Despite their approval of his overall handling of the presidency, majorities in this group have significant doubts about his stamina for the job (70% say he lacks the stamina and sharpness to serve effectively as president) and ability to inspire confidence (62% say he does not inspire confidence). This “thanks but no thanks” group is also nearly 30 points less likely than others who approve of Biden to say they approve of his handling of the economy.
Compared with others who approve of Biden, those who fall into this group are also more likely to be political independents (57% identify as independents, compared with 36% who approve and do want him reelected) and younger (64% are younger than 45 compared with 37% of those who approve and do want the president reelected). They are also significantly less likely to be registered voters (60% say they are registered to vote, compared with 86% among those who approve and do want to see Biden reelected), which could mean that they ultimately sit out the presidential election, and in a close race, Biden would need robust turnout among those who approve of his performance.
Most Democrats want to see a different nominee but not as many as before
Among registered voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, most (54%) say that they would like to see the Democratic party nominate someone other than Biden in 2024, while 44% say Biden should be the nominee. Despite the stagnation in overall views of the president, that marks an improvement for him. In December, 59% said they would prefer a different candidate, and last summer, that figure stood at 75%. The uptick in support comes largely among college graduates (from 32% wanting Biden to be renominated in December to 45% now) and among independents who lean Democratic (from 22% in December to 36% now).
As in other recent CNN polling, few who say they’d like to see someone else head the Democratic ticket have a specific replacement candidate in mind. About 7 in 10 in that group say they just generally want to see someone other than Biden, and no individual candidate is named by more than 5% of those looking for an alternate nominee. Those named by more than 1% include Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 5%, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at 4%, Vice President Kamala Harris and former first lady Michelle Obama at 3% each, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 2% each.
Democratic-aligned voters split over whether the party would have a better chance of winning in 2024 with Biden at the head of the ticket (49%) or if they’d have a better chance with someone else (49%). Biden’s strongest boosters on this question are Democratic-aligned voters age 65 or older (65% say the party would have a better chance with Biden than someone else), while 61% of those younger than 45 say the party would have a better shot at winning with someone else.
The survey also mirrored other national polling conducted before Trump’s indictment in finding an uptick in support for the former president as the GOP nominee (52% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters said they thought he ought to be the nominee over another unnamed candidate, up from a low of 38% in December). A sizable share of those seeking a different candidate named Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis when asked if there was someone specific they’d like to see nominated (28% who want to see another candidate lead the ticket named him unprompted). Republican-aligned voters were also split in the pre-indictment poll over whether the party would have a better chance with Trump at the top of the ticket or if someone else would have a better shot at winning.
The poll found that Republicans and Republican-leaners were more likely to be looking forward to the 2024 election than were Democrats and Democratic-leaners (54% among Republican-aligned Americans, 26% on the Democratic side).
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS from March 1 through 31 among a random national sample of 1,595 adults initially reached by mail. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.
Ariel Edwards-Levy contributed to this report.