Biden gets low marks on economy, major concerns about his age as Trump rematch looms, new poll shows

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks celebrating Labor Day and honoring America’s workers and unions at the Annual Tri-State Labor Day Parade at Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union 19, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 4, 2023. 

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

President Joe Biden‘s age and his handling of the economy are two of his greatest weaknesses as the 80-year-old incumbent gears up for a possible rematch with former President Donald Trump, a new poll showed Monday.

Those major concerns could be what’s dragging Biden’s overall job approval underwater at 42%, versus some 57% who disapprove, according to the Wall Street Journal poll of 1,500 registered voters contacted Aug. 24-30.

A 60% majority of registered voters indicated in the poll that they do not consider Biden “mentally up for the job” of being president. Nearly three-fourths of respondents, 73%, said they think Biden is too old to run for president — a much higher response than they gave Trump, who is 77 years old.

The poll had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, according to the newspaper. It was conducted by Democratic pollster Michael Bocian and Tony Fabrizio, the former pollster for Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Majorities of registered voters said they disapproved of how Biden has handled the economy (59%), inflation (63%) and growth of the middle class (58%), according to the poll. Respondents were split on Biden’s effort to create jobs, a paramount concern for the administration as it has worked to recover the nation from the impact of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Voters also gave Biden net negative approval ratings on his handling of the war in Ukraine and U.S. dealings with China.

The poll shows Biden failing to reverse widespread pessimism around the economy, despite a summer-long push to tout his record and take credit for positive developments — including slowing inflation and a rosier GDP outlook — as being the result of “Bidenomics.”

In a Labor Day speech in Philadelphia, Biden lashed out at Trump repeatedly over his economic record, accusing “the last guy” of ceding U.S. jobs to China and putting U.S. pensions “at risk.”

“The last guy looked at the world from Park Avenue,” Biden said. “I look at it from Scranton, Pennsylvania.”

But while a 24% plurality of voters in the latest poll said the economy was top of mind for the 2024 presidential election, they once again overwhelmingly said the country was headed in the wrong direction, with just 23% expressing a more positive outlook.

Nearly two-thirds of registered voters, 63%, said they viewed the strength of the U.S. economy negatively, including 36% who called it “poor.” Worse for Biden, 58% of registered voters said the economy has gotten worse over the past two years, compared to 28% who said it has gotten better.

Inflation is a major pain point: 74% of respondents said it has moved in the wrong direction over the past year.

Most voters, 86%, said the cost of housing has gone in the wrong direction over the past year. More than half of respondents, 54%, said their personal financial situation has worsened in the same period.

On the job market, however, voters were split, with 45% saying it has moved in the right direction and 44% saying it has moved in the wrong direction in the past year.

Voters were evenly split on which candidate they would support if the 2024 election were held today, with both Trump and Biden getting 46% support.

The two party leaders are viewed equally unfavorably in the poll, with 58% of respondents giving a negative opinion of each figure and 39% saying they viewed the candidates favorably.

“Voters are looking for change, and neither of the leading candidates is the change that they’re looking for,” Bocian told the Journal.

Trump’s biggest Republican primary challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, scored even lower in the poll, with 37% of voters expressing a favorable opinion of him.

Trump received a 39-point lead over DeSantis among Republican primary voters, 59% of whom said they would pick the former president if they were voting today. Just 13% of those GOP voters said they would vote for DeSantis, an 11-point drop since the last time the pollster asked the question in April.

But a 35% plurality of Republican voters picked DeSantis as their second choice, followed by right-wing entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former United Nations Amb. Nikki Haley.

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