Just 5 Percent Of Young Voters Strongly Approve Of Biden's Performance : The NPR Politics Podcast The president's support among young voters — who generally trend Democratic — is anemic, with their level of support comparable with his numbers among whites without college degrees and white evangelical Christians.

Part of the problem for Biden may be his big promises: then-candidate Biden promised transformational change, but his narrow control of the Senate and intraparty opposition has constrained his progress on key goals like climate. Despite the president's posture as a deal-maker, he has been largely absent from efforts to break the legislative logjam.

This episode: political correspondent Susan Davis, White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez, and senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro.

Support the show and unlock sponsor-free listening with a subscription to The NPR Politics Podcast Plus. Learn more at plus.npr.org/politics

Email the show at nprpolitics@npr.org
Join the NPR Politics Podcast Facebook Group.
Subscribe to the NPR Politics Newsletter..

Just 5 Percent Of Young Voters Strongly Approve Of Biden's Performance

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1112562635/1198977656" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Hi. This is Miss Parson's (ph) Sec II band class in Montreal, Quebec...

MISS PARSON: And my last day student teaching before I graduate from university with two bachelor degrees.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: This podcast was recorded at...


1:06 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Things may have changed by the time you hear this. Enjoy the show.


DAVIS: Always nice to hear from our friends in the North.


DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: I feel like we should do that - do the pod in unison.

DAVIS: Maybe we should do a live show up there.

ORDOÑEZ: I totally am for that.

DAVIS: Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Susan Davis. I cover politics.

ORDOÑEZ: I'm Franco Ordoñez. I cover the White House.

MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.

ORDOÑEZ: Sue, what's up with that title?

DAVIS: Yeah, a little bit of change. Change is good. I - you know, long time congressional correspondent - new change announced today. I'm now going to be a political correspondent. I'll still be doing a lot of stuff off of Capitol Hill but doing a little bit more big-picture stories and hopefully, you know, getting back out and traveling all over the country and hopefully talking to more voters these days.

ORDOÑEZ: That's great.


DAVIS: And today, we're going to talk about a new poll. The new NPR/Marist/PBS NewsHour (ph) poll is out today, and it's got nothing but bad news for President Biden. He's at record-low approval ratings, but one of the most troubling numbers in here for the president is how low his support is among Democrats. So, Domenico, what's going on?

MONTANARO: Yeah, Biden's approval rating is at 36%, the lowest that we've recorded in the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey since Biden took office. And you're right. The real reason here for this decline, that 4-point drop in the last month, is because of his own party, because of Democrats. You know, a lot of Democrats in his base displeased with the president, and they've gone down about 9 points. About 75% now of Democrats say that they approve of the job President Biden is doing. That doesn't sound terrible, but when you look at it compared to other presidents, usually presidents' bases are far more approving. Just for context, former President Trump never got this low, not even after January 6, not even after the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va.

DAVIS: Do you have any sense of what's driving the Democratic dissatisfaction with the president?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, we (laughter) talked to a lot of voters and a lot of, you know, people on Capitol Hill, for example, who will talk about the progress that hasn't been made that Biden promised on the campaign trail - things from voting rights to now abortion rights, student loans and, of course, climate change initiatives. And a lot of progressives just feel like he has not fought harder, that he hasn't been bolder with some of these initiatives. You know, a lot of what Biden has promised has run into a roadblock with one particular senator (laughter) in West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin. Democrats have the narrowest of majorities in the Senate, 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris coming in to break ties. And, you know, he's really run into the realities of governing, though you could argue he's overpromised on the campaign trail with what he could actually deliver.

DAVIS: Franco, this isn't, like, a shock poll. It's sort of part of a narrative we've seen for some time. Biden isn't very popular. How does the White House acknowledge this reality? Do they acknowledge it? And how do they explain why Biden's standing is so low?

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, the White House is in a tough position. As, you know, Domenico was just saying, you know, Congress has really blocked many of his efforts - and it's not just Republicans, it's Democrats, particularly Joe Manchin - on climate. And, you know, those are some of the realities when you have such a narrow majority in Congress, you know? And the president and his team are very well aware of voter concerns, especially among his Democratic base. And, you know, that's why you're seeing the administration taking kind of actions that they've been taking, you know? You've seen executive actions on abortion after the Supreme Court decision. Today the president is traveling to Massachusetts to promote his climate agenda that has been stalled by Congress. And you also have had the president pushing for a gas tax holiday. You know, these are more like incremental efforts around the edges, but it's clear that the president, you know, is speaking to his base, trying to demonstrate that he is taking action on things that matter to them most.

DAVIS: Domenico, one of the sort of bright red flags in this poll - especially for Democrats, and I'm thinking ahead of the midterms - is Biden's standing among young voters. And I think for polling purposes, we define that as people under 45. But, man, those numbers look terrible for him.

MONTANARO: It's really not very good. You know, he won younger voters under 45 with 56% of them in 2020. They really were a big piece of what helped him over the finish line in 2020 against former President Trump. And a lot of those voters held their nose to vote for Biden because they just disagreed with him, with how bold or how far he was willing to go on different things, and that's really showing up now in their disaffection. And one place where it really, really shows up is in what we look at as the strongly approve numbers. This really measures your intensity of support with your base. Four times as many people in the country strongly disapprove of President Biden than strongly approve of President Biden. Only 11% now say that they strongly approve of Biden. Only 30% of Democrats strongly approve of President Biden. And get this, 5% of voters under 45 strongly approve of the president. And that is on par with white evangelical Christians and whites without college degrees or, pretty darn reliably, Republican voters.

DAVIS: Wow. How do you see this all impacting the midterms? I mean, I think one of the sort of pillars of a midterm election is that it is a referendum on the party in the White House and that a president's approval ratings is one of the key metrics to look at when trying to evaluate the midterm election climate. And I look at a 36% approval rating, and it seems to sort of fit with what we're seeing elsewhere - that congressional Democrats should be bracing themselves for November.

MONTANARO: Well, I think there's a couple of things going on here. Number one - I don't think the landscape has changed all that much as far as Republicans being favored to take back the House. What we have been seeing, though, is Democrats outpacing President Biden on what's known as the congressional ballot, where you're asking people if they were to vote for a generic Democrat or a generic Republican today, who would they vote for? And Democrats are running even, if not better, than Republicans in a lot of those surveys. And that's because you have a lot of Democrats and progressives saying that they will vote for the Democrat, even if they're disapproving of President Biden's job in office. And we're seeing that in a lot of key Senate races across the country, where we're seeing Democrats hold up pretty well in places like Pennsylvania and Georgia, for example, where you would normally think the president's approval rating would be an albatross.

And we'll, you know, see if that holds true. But right now, that's where Democrats are hinging their hopes that they can hold on to the Senate, potentially by a very narrow margin, and potentially stem the tide of a potential Republican wave in the House. A lot of that has to do with the enthusiasm that's been drummed up. Because of the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe, we're seeing that really rise to the top as a voting issue for Democrats.

DAVIS: All right, let's take a quick break. And when we get back, we'll talk about one of those promises Democrats haven't been able to deliver on.

And we're back. And President Biden is traveling to a former coal plant to announce new executive initiatives to address climate change. Franco, this comes after more disappointment from Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who once again doomed the president's hopes for ambitious climate actions. He said he wouldn't vote for it, basically making it impossible to get it through a 50/50 Senate. So what exactly did Biden announce?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, he says he's going to take action against drastic heat - like the kind of sweltering heat that's being felt across the United States as well as the rest of the planet - as well as taking some action on energy bills. He's got some funding that he's going to announce for FEMA to assist local communities. He's also going to provide some guidance and support for the Department of Health and Human Services that's helping, you know, families with energy costs. You know, he's also going to Somerset, Mass., and he's going to be visiting this plant today, where they make these undersea cables that will bring power from wind turbines built in the Atlantic Ocean to the electric grid. And that's part of his efforts to kind of boost the offshore wind industry.

MONTANARO: Well, how does this really match up with what activists are hoping for? Because we've been talking about how there's been this decline, for example, with young voters who we know are very concerned about the climate.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, I mean, it's far, far from what activists want. I mean, so far, many of the efforts that he's going to announce involve supporting existing programs or adding funding to existing programs. And that's why you're hearing so many calls from activists for the president to take bolder action, to take executive action, and to stop waiting on Congress, to stop waiting on Manchin. Obviously, the president has been reluctant to do that. Reportedly, one of those reluctances is he doesn't want to antagonize Manchin because he thinks he may be able to get Manchin on board on some smaller measures, maybe some clean tax credits.

But, you know, let's also remember that, you know, a lot of these emergency powers would relate to clamping down on fossil fuels. And, you know, given the state of oil markets and inflation, you know, it's really unlikely that there's going to be any of that clamping down on fossil fuels in the short term with gas prices so high.

MONTANARO: And Manchin's a tough sell coming from a coal and gas state where Trump won it by about 40 points.

DAVIS: Yeah, and I think this is why you see a lot of frustration among not just Democratic lawmakers, but Democratic voters. I think that they saw the trifecta in Washington of having Democrats control Congress and the White House was sort of their best opportunity to get climate change legislation through. And Manchin pulling the plug has taken it off the congressional agenda. I mean, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both basically conceded as much this week, saying they need to move on and focus on what they can get done.

And look, if Republicans take over one or both houses of Congress this November, I mean, climate change just isn't going to be on the agenda. There's huge gulf between the two parties in what they think needs to be done. And it's certainly not going to align with anything climate change activists are hoping for. So, you know, this kind of was the last, best attempt to get something through legislatively, and that's really disappeared.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. I mean, I think there's no question about that. I've definitely talked with administration officials who are very concerned about the future and whether - in the next 10 years or so whether they will have the numbers that they have now.

DAVIS: All right, that's it for today. But before we go, congrats to our friend and colleague Scott Detrow. He was supposed to be in the host chair today for this podcast, but he had to run out of work a little bit early. His wife went into labor. Hopefully, by the time you hear this, something has changed. He will have baby number two in his hands.

MONTANARO: Oh, that's awesome.

ORDOÑEZ: That's absolutely wonderful.

DAVIS: I'm Susan Davis. I cover politics.

ORDOÑEZ: I'm Frank Ordoñez. I cover the White House.

MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.

DAVIS: And thanks for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.


Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.