Joe Biden, his aides and his Democratic allies are shrugging off polls showing doubts about his age and leadership as they plot his expected re-election campaign, and point instead to the US president’s flinty State of the Union speech to Congress this week as a sign of his political resiliency.
Biden, who turned 80 in November, is the oldest president to hold office. He and his Democratic Party are laying the groundwork for a campaign that would put him in office for a second, four-year term in 2025. Recent polls show aging leaders are a concern for Americans in general, and Biden’s age in particular worries Democratic voters. Asked about the age concerns in a Noticias Telemundo interview that aired Thursday, Biden said “Well, that’s not what I hear.”
He added, “Look, do you know any polling that’s accurate these days? You all told me that there was no way we were going to do well in this off-year election. I told you from the beginning we’re going to do well.” Biden’s public approval rating was just 41% in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll that closed on Sunday. That is close to the lowest level of his presidency, though similar to where former President Donald Trump was at the same time in his administration. Biden aides and advisors Reuters spoke to in recent days reiterated the idea that polling is irrelevant. Their reasoning: there is more than a year to go before ballots are cast, and US political polls predicting a “red wave” of Republicans before the midterms were wrong.
Instead, Biden and his team are studying polls showing the favorability of Biden’s message and the policies he is pushing, like higher taxes on companies and the rich, and lower insulin costs. They’re targeting key subsets of voters, such as those who flipped from supporting Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020. “I feel good about where we are. I feel good about the way things are, and I feel good about the reception I get,” Biden said in the Telemundo interview. On Wednesday, Biden delivered a robust speech in the state of Wisconsin, which made such a flip in 2020, ribbing Republicans for heckling him over his remarks about some opposition party members’ Social Security plans, while reiterating a pledge to work with them at the same time.
“People sent us a clear message: Fighting for the sake of fighting gets us nowhere. We are getting things done,” he said. An estimated 23.4 million people watched the State of the Union, giving Biden one of his largest audiences of the year, and clips of an interchange between Biden and House Republicans circulating on social media may have drawn millions more viewers. How well he did depends on who you ask.
A CNN poll conduced with 552 US adults found that 72% regarded the speech positively. A Fox News-led focus group felt he didn’t address crime or education adequately. In swing state of Nevada, independents and moderates approved of Biden’s attacks on Republicans for threatening Social Security and Medicare benefits, and his pledge to cap insulin costs and make the wealthy pay their “fair share” in taxes, said Navigator Research, which hosted a small focus group. The left-leaning group’s research has been used before by the White House. Overall, Biden’s approval rating among the group rose from 31% to 52% during the speech, and six in ten liked the speech. His approval rating on handling of the economy rose from a net negative 38% to a positive 4%.
However, Nevada voters are still finding it hard to feel good about the economy when they see prices for eggs and milk still rising, said Bryan Bennett, an adviser to Navigator. “It is hard for people to reconcile the personal economic indicators with the broader, more positive ones,” he said. Attacking Republicans for threatening Social Security and Medicare is expected to be particularly salient in competitive states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Florida with large proportions of elderly voters. Biden heads to Florida to talk about the issue on Thursday.