Fox News Poll: Voters say the state of the union is worse than a year ago

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As President Biden prepares to give his first State of the Union speech, voters give a status report of their own: only a quarter rate the economy positively, less than a third are satisfied with the direction of the country, and over half think the U.S. is worse off than it was a year ago.  That hands Biden his worst job ratings to date, according to a new Fox News national survey.

Just 31% of voters are satisfied with the way things are going in the country today.  That’s not only down from 45% at the 100-day mark of Biden’s presidency (April 2021), but it is also the lowest number who have felt that way in almost a decade.  The last time satisfaction was lower was October 2013, when 26% were happy. 

A majority of 58% says the country is worse off than it was a year ago, while 35% say the country is better off. 

Interviews for the survey were completed before Russia invaded Ukraine overnight Wednesday.

Overall, 43% approve of Biden’s job performance and 56% disapprove.  Those are the worst marks of his presidency — and a reversal since June when he received his best, 56% approved and 43% disapproved. 

Biden’s current ratings closely resemble former President Trump’s at this point in his presidency: 43% approved and 53% disapproved in February 2018.  Yet that doesn’t tell the whole story. Only 18% “strongly” approve of Biden. For Trump, that number never fell below 25%. 

Eighty-two percent of Democrats approve of Biden, down 13 points from a high of 95% in April. 

On the economy, 24% of voters say it is in excellent or good shape, down from 29% earlier in Biden’s term (April 2021). Three times as many, 76%, say economic conditions are only fair or poor.

On the individual level, 50% feel like they have less money in their pocket compared to a year ago. Few, 14%, say they have more cash, while for 36% there’s no difference.  Those who feel they’ve been hit hardest include working class Whites (60%), rural voters (58%), independents (54%), suburban women (52%), and voters with income under $50K (52%). 

In addition, large numbers say higher prices for groceries (77%), gas (72%), and utilities (70%) are a financial hardship for their family.  A smaller number (57%), though still a majority, call increasing housing costs a hardship.

And they blame Biden.  More than twice as many think the administration’s actions on inflation are hurting rather than helping, and nearly two-thirds say Biden is at least somewhat responsible for rising gas prices.

Those gloomy perceptions have pushed disapproval of Biden’s handling of the economy to a record 61%.  Thirty-seven percent approve. 

In fact, more voters disapprove than approve of the job he’s doing on every issue on the survey. He is also underwater on immigration (34% approve, 62% disapprove), crime (35%-59%), uniting the country (38%-58%), foreign policy (38%-58%), and climate change (44%-50%). 

His best rating is on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, yet even here he’s underwater by 4 points: 47% approve and 51% disapprove.  Less than a year ago, his marks on the pandemic were net positive by 30 points.

The poll, released Thursday, finds 22% say inflation is the most important issue facing the country and another 16% prioritize jobs and economic growth.  Next, it is the coronavirus pandemic (15%), immigration/border security (14%), voting rights/election integrity (12%), climate change (9%), crime (7%), and foreign policy (3%). 

President Biden listens to questions from reporters while speaking about the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Meanwhile, Biden has lost ground with voters on traits typically considered important in a president.  Just over a third (36%) describe him as a strong leader — a 13-point drop since just before the 2020 election (49% in Oct. 2020). 

Four in 10 (43%) think Biden is honest and trustworthy, down from 52% in Oct. 2020. 

The drop is similar on empathy, a characteristic considered one of his biggest strengths.  Forty-four percent say he “cares about people” like me, down from 56% in Oct. 2020.

There’s a smaller 5-point decline, from 49% to 44%, on Biden having the mental soundness to serve effectively as president.

Majorities now say Biden is not a strong leader (61%), not honest (55%), doesn’t “care about people” (53%), and doesn’t have the mental soundness to serve (53%).

In addition, while 44% are confident in Biden’s judgment in a crisis, 54% aren’t.

On the current foreign policy crisis, 56% think Biden hasn’t been tough enough on Russia, 66% are concerned about the situation between Russia and Ukraine, and 76% think what happens in that conflict matters to life in the United States. 

Poll-pourri

— Vice President Kamala Harris’ job rating is underwater by 16 points:  40% approve, while 56% disapprove.  Last month, it was 43-54%. 

— Republicans see the country’s top issues as inflation (28%), immigration/border security (25%), and jobs/economic growth (16%).  Priorities splinter among Democrats, with inflation coming in fifth.  They put coronavirus first (21%), followed by voting rights/election integrity (18%), climate change (16%), jobs/economic growth (15%), and inflation (14%).

— Views split over the main reason for the situation at the southern border: 49% blame the Biden administration’s border and immigration policies, while 46% point to political and economic factors in migrants’ home countries.

— Almost half of Democrats rate the economy positively (46% excellent/good) and over half are satisfied with the direction of the country (59%).  Among Republicans, an overwhelming majority (90%) is unhappy with the way things are going and rates the economy negatively (93% fair/poor).  Large majorities of independents are dissatisfied (79%) and say the economy is in negative shape (84%). 

— Five percent of voters are “enthusiastic” about how the government is working and another 27% are “satisfied.”  A majority is “dissatisfied” (40%) or “angry” (27%) with Washington.  Overall, these sentiments are nearly identical to how voters felt at the one-year mark during Trump’s presidency (Feb. 2018).  One big difference though, is that Democrats (37%) were more than twice as likely as Republicans to be angry in 2018 (16%), while Republicans (44%) are more than four times as likely as Democrats (10%) to feel that way now.

Conducted Feb. 19-22, 2022 under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R), this Fox News Poll includes interviews with 1,001 registered voters nationwide who were randomly selected from a national voter file and spoke with live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones. The total sample has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. 

Fox News’ Victoria Balara contributed to this report.

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