Biden approval rating at 39% amid economic fears; 47% 'strongly disapprove': USA TODAY/Suffolk poll

Susan Page

President Joe Biden said Thursday Americans were "really, really down." He's right about that.

A new USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll shows the country in a funk and one that sets a problematic political landscape for Democrats in the November elections that are approaching fast.

  • Only 39% of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president. A stunning 47% "strongly" disapprove; just 16% "strongly" approve. Academic studies have shown that presidential approval is one of the most reliable predictors of what happens in midterm elections, and a rating this low would traditionally signal significant losses for the president's party.
  • More than 7 in 10, 71%, say the United States is "on the wrong track;" 16% say it's headed in the right direction. Even most Democrats say the country is on the wrong track, 46%-34%. Three of 4 independents and nearly every Republican agree.
  • Americans split 40%-40% when asked whether they would vote for a Republican or a Democrat for Congress if the election was held today. Independent analysts and strategists in both parties say Republicans are likely to pick up the handful of seats they need to take control of the House. Democrats now hold 220 House seats; 218 are needed for control.

Control of the Senate, now divided 50-50, is harder to predict. 

Independents now say they would vote for the Republican over the Democrat for Congress, 32%-27%. But 40% are undecided, a sign that these key voters haven't yet made up their minds, or perhaps haven't yet focused on the election.

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Americans have been downbeat all year, and their attitudes have gotten a bit more pessimistic than they were at the beginning of the year. In a USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll in February, Biden's approval rating was also 39%; then, 44% "strongly" disapproved. Then, 65% saw the country going in the wrong direction; 22% said it was on the right track. Then, the congressional ballot was divided 39% Democrat, 37% Republican.

"People are really, really down," Biden said in an interview Thursday with the Associated Press, blaming the pessimism on the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also blamed the rising cost of gasoline and food for driving down his approval rating and the nation's mood. 

"If you want a direct barometer of what people are going to talk about at the kitchen table and the dining room table and whether things are going well, it's the cost of food and what's the cost of gasoline at the pump," he said. But he said they should "be confident because I am confident" about the future. 

The poll of 1,000 registered votes, taken by landline and cellphone Sunday through Wednesday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.