The poll questions are part of a long battery of attributes about which voters were asked to rate Biden — the same battery employed multiple times during Donald Trump’s presidency, and asked about both candidates last fall, prior to the 2020 presidential election.
The new polling comes amid persistent questions about whether Biden — who turns 79 on Saturday — will run for reelection in three years and as Democrats have grown increasingly concerned with the party’s gerontocracy. Biden says he will run again, but some longtime allies have raised doubts. Even “Saturday Night Live” recently ribbed Biden over whether he was “lucid.”
The most intense scrutiny of Biden’s age and his verbal miscues had previously been limited to conservative news outlets and social media, said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has surveyed for Biden.
“They’re running a very aggressive campaign on this, and it’s bleeding over into the mainstream a little,” Lake said. “By and large, the people who believe this are Trump supporters anyway or they’ve been exposed to the right-wing disinformation machine.”
To Lake’s point, the Morning Consult poll generally shows that Trump voters and Republicans generally believe Biden is neither physically nor mentally fit, and Biden voters believe the opposite. However, independents — by a margin of 23 points — don’t agree that Biden is mentally fit now.
Before last year’s election, independents and voters overall believed Biden was more physically and mentally fit than Trump, whose mismanagement of the pandemic damaged his campaign as the Biden camp embraced social distancing and mostly eschewed large events.
But with Trump gone as a foil for now, Biden is more in the spotlight than ever, and his overall approval rating began collapsing with the bloody withdrawal from Afghanistan. The ravages of the coronavirus Delta variant, congressional squabbling and public perceptions about the economy also contributed to Biden’s troubles.
The new Morning Consult poll shows 44 percent give Biden a positive job approval rating and 53 percent disapprove. Biden’s approval rating is essentially unchanged over the past two weeks — it was 46 percent last week and 45 percent the week prior — since the passage of the infrastructure bill in Congress earlier this month.
A recent Harvard-Harris poll found that 53 percent of voters said they had doubts about Biden’s fitness and 47 percent did not. Asked if Biden is too old to be president, 58 percent said he was and 42 percent said he was fit enough.
The Morning Consult poll found that voters didn’t find Biden a clear communicator by 20 points, they didn’t find him energetic by 26 points and they did not find he was a strong leader by 17 points.
The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted Nov. 13-15, surveying 1,998 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Republican pollster Neil Newhouse said Biden’s difficulties communicating clearly could be a contributing factor in keeping his approval ratings low.
“When you watch Biden, you get a sense that he’s just missing a beat, that he’s not what he once was,” Newhouse said. “Voters are picking up on it.”
Newhouse noted that Biden is losing support among the most loyal Democratic segment of the electorate: Black voters. Not only does polling show it, Newhouse said — so did a recent focus group of Black voters in a Southern state who were interviewed to discuss policy issues.
Newhouse, who polled for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said he was surprised by the tepid response to Biden when the moderator asked the voters about the president.
“Biden is definitely slow on a lot of things. I’m not sure if it is because of his age, or if he’s still going after 30 decades ago,” one respondent joked, according to a transcript. As if she would support Biden in 2024, the woman said, “If he’s alive. I’m just saying.”
Morning Consult is a global data intelligence company, delivering insights on what people think in real time by surveying tens of thousands across the globe every single day.