Massachusetts voters, who two years ago gave Joe Biden substantial primary and general election wins, are increasingly dissatisfied with the Democrat — a warning sign for him and his party as midterm elections draw closer.
A new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll found that 48 percent of registered Massachusetts voters disapprove of the job Biden is doing, compared to just 41 percent who approve. That’s worse than he fared on the same question in the Suffolk/Globe poll in April, when voters were split on him, 46 percent to 46 percent. Though the slide in approval is pronounced, it is not beyond the polls’ margins of error, which were plus-or-minus 4.1 percentage points this month and 3.5 points in April.
Just 35 percent of the state’s independent voters approved of Biden’s performance, and Democrats, although still largely supportive of him, showed signs of losing patience. Sixty-two percent of Democrats approved of Biden, down from 75 percent in April. Among demographic groups, Biden fared worst among young voters ages 18 to 35, men, and Hispanic voters, and best among women and voters over 56.
There are alarm bells for Democrats in the poll nationally, especially on the economy, said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. He noted that the number of people who believe the country is already in an economic recession or depression, a determination that has not officially been made, has increased 10 percentage points since April.
“A 10-point [increase] in a three-month period, that’s something that policy makers and academics and regular people certainly need to take a look at,” Paleologos said. “The economy is really weighing on residents in the Bay State, so the fallout really happens with the president.”
The overall trend resembles what pollsters are seeing nationally. The Real Clear Politics polling average this week put Biden’s approval at 37 percent nationally, continuing a steady and precipitous decline since he came into office. Meanwhile, Americans have been dealing with persistently high inflation, which hit a four-decade high of 9.1 percent in June.
Biden’s electoral prospects have dimmed in the past year as he struggled to respond to multiple crises spanning inflation, war in Ukraine, an infant formula shortage, and continued outbreaks of COVID, while the conservative Supreme Court handed down rulings blocking pieces of his agenda, and other proposed policies have not been able to clear the Senate. Earlier this month, a New York Times/Siena College poll found that 64 percent of Democratic voters nationally would prefer someone else to run for president in 2024, and FiveThirtyEight places Biden’s low approval ratings as the worst of any president at this point in his presidency since the end of World War II. That’s even below former president Donald Trump, whom Biden defeated in 2020.
But the White House has brushed off the polling, at least publicly.
“There’s going to be many polls,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in response to a question about the New York Times/Siena College poll. “They’re going to go up or they’re going to go down. This is not the thing that we are solely focused on.”
Paleologos noted that Biden’s fortunes could change — if the economy improves, voters might have a slightly rosier view of him. If it doesn’t or gets worse, however, his numbers could fall further.
But interestingly, the poll shows the economic pain is not as widely felt as it is perceived. Though 56 percent of voters said they are somewhat or very concerned about their financial situation, 65 percent said right now, they have enough money to “live comfortably.”
Though Biden will not be on the ballot in November, he is expected to see his governing majority in Congress slip away. Historically, the president’s party often loses control of the House in the midterm elections after he is elected, and in a 50-50 Senate, Democrats have no margin for error to retain power. Republicans nationwide have been hammering Democrats on inflation, while Democrats, who passed sweeping COVID relief and infrastructure bills, have struggled to notch significant wins with their majority that resonate with voters.
There is one sign of possible opportunity in the poll for Democrats, however. A large number of voters said the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was a significant issue to them. Forty-two percent of residents said the opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and other major high court decisions was the recent development that most affected them emotionally, as opposed to 33 percent who said the economy. Additionally, 66 percent of residents said they were concerned the Supreme Court could curtail other rights, like gay marriage.
Biden and Democrats could win over some voters with a stronger response on the abortion rights issue and others, said one voter who took the poll, Mishelle Greel. The 44-year-old marketing agency manager from Gloucester is a Democrat who disapproves of the job Biden and the party overall are doing, saying her preferred politicians include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a progressive independent. But Democrats haven’t entirely lost her vote, either.
“Our rights are being stripped away, we’re being sent back to the ‘50s, it’s just not OK, and I just don’t see a strong enough stand coming from the president,” Greel told the Globe. “The last two elections have just been about voting against Trump and I guess that’s what I’m going to be doing again, I’m going to be voting against Trump or against whatever Republican they put up.”
Greel’s perspective was echoed by Jonathan Rivera, a 32-year-old Lawrence resident who works for the city. Rivera said he doesn’t fully blame Biden for what’s not getting done in Washington, nor does he have unrealistic expectations for a president. But he said Biden campaigned as a bipartisan dealmaker and unifier, which hasn’t come to pass. And he wants to see more action on big ticket items, including forgiving student debt.
“It seems like they’re more concerned about potentially being sued and then overturned than they are to actually getting anything done,” Rivera said.
And in the wake of the Dobbs decision, he added: “Pack the hell out of the courts, please, my goodness. I’m just like, I can’t.”
Tal Kopan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @talkopan.