CNBC/Change Research National Poll

The latest Change Research survey for CNBC of 1,775 registered voters nationally conducted August 30 – September 2 finds Biden and Democrats in a precarious position as they return from their summer recess.

The congressional ballot is at parity with 46% of voters preferring Democrats, 45% preferring Republicans, and 9% undecided. Though Democrats lead by 4 points among likely voters (49% to 45%), the congressional ballot margin was more favorable for Democrats in likely and registered voter surveys at this point in 2017.

Joe Biden made considerable gains in favorability after clinching the Democratic nomination and he ended the General Election with a majority holding favorable opinions of him. Today, opinions of Biden are 13 points net-unfavorable and 53% are unfavorable. Biden is now less popular than Donald Trump, who has a +10 net unfavorable rating (42% favorable, 52% unfavorable).

For the four years of the Trump presidency, Trump’s approval rating was net-negative and nearly as many strongly disapproved as approved. That is now the situation plaguing Biden nine months into his presidency. A 54% majority disapprove (46% strongly) and 46% approve (25% strongly). Virtually all Trump voters and three-in-four non-2020 voters disapprove of Biden’s performance, as they did in April. What has changed is the reaction of Biden voters: 12% of Biden voters now disapprove of his job performance, up from 3% in April. Biden’s disapproval is now as high as Trump’s at this point one year ago, and his strong approval is considerably weaker than Trump’s was, another indication of a looming enthusiasm challenge for Democrats.

 Biden receives high marks for getting vaccines to everyone who wants one and handling the coronavirus. Majorities also approve of his handling of infrastructure and the stock market. Biden gets negative marks for his handling of the economy, jobs, national security, helping your pocketbook, and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Approval ratings on these issues are all within a point or two of Biden’s overall job performance rating.

There are myriad crises confronting Biden and Democrats, but the issues on which Biden has lost ground are getting vaccines to everyone who wants one (67% approve, down from 74% in April), the coronavirus (53%, down from 59% in April), the economy (46% approve, versus 50% approve in April) and helping your pocketbook (45% approve, versus 49% approve in April). 

This survey did not deeply explore attitudes about the economy, but it did explore vaccine sentiment. Of the 29% of voters who remained unvaccinated in this poll, only 3% intend to get vaccinated, 14% may get vaccinated and 83% do not intend to get vaccinated. Notably, as many voters cite distrust of government as cite concerns about safety and side effects as their primary reason to remain unvaccinated at this point in the vaccination campaign. 

Since this survey fielded, the Biden Administration has announced strict new mandates to require  all government employees and businesses with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated. Employer mandates may be the most effective way to incentivize new vaccinations short of an assurance that there would be no side-effects: 13% of the unvaccinated say that they would be more likely to get vaccinated if it was required by their employer. By comparison, only 7% would be more likely to get vaccinated if President Trump asked them to or if Delta became more of a problem in their community.

Despite the media attention on Afghanistan, 47% of voters approve of Biden’s handling of national security, just as they did in April before troop withdrawal. Don’t expect that to stop Republicans from turning this into a hot button issue in 2022, just as they did with ‘law and order’ in 2020. Nearly one-in-four voters (24%) selected national security as one of their top three issues, up from 14% in April. This shift in importance is produced by Trump voters flocking to focus on this perceived Biden weakness and away from issues like law and order and immigration. More Trump voters now prioritize national security than the economy (44% and 40%, respectively).