Pessimistic about the future of the economy and polarization, voters call for compromise to get things done
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Voter frustration and a growing sense that the country is headed in the wrong direction is resulting in a sharp decline in approval ratings for President Biden and both parties in Congress, according to the latest Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service at the McCourt School of Public Policy (GU Politics) Battleground Poll.
According to the new poll, 63% of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, up from 56% in June. President Biden’s approval rating has dropped to 45% today, down from 53% in June. And both parties in Congress have also seen a decline, with Democrats sitting at 39% approval and Republicans faring the worst with only 27% approval rating.
Voters are not only unhappy with the current direction of the country, but the poll shows a growing sense of pessimism that things will get worse. A full 66% of voters believe the economy will be worse off for the next generation. When asked what they think the level of polarization in our country will be like in one year compared to now, voters believe it will get worse.
“Heightened anxiety and hyper polarization lead to very volatile politics, and it’s clear that voters are punishing both parties,” said Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service at the McCourt School of Public Policy Executive Director Mo Elleithee. “Voters are once again sending a message that they are far more interested in compromise that delivers results than ideological bickering that doesn’t.”
Indeed, voters prefer by a 40% margin “a politician who is willing to work together to get things done, even if it means compromising on my values sometimes” (66%), over “a politician who consistently fights for my values, even if this means not finding a solution very often (26%).
“As the mounting challenges the country faces continue to go unaddressed, the national unity and civility in America remain frayed with new and concerning controversies in schools, masks and the state of the economy. In fact, division in the country is the top concern among independents, with 26% of them saying it is one of their top two concerns,” said Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. “Many voters believe Biden is making a good faith effort to restore unity and civility in America, but worry who will join him. The numbers on Covid are improving which is the one bright spot for the president.”
Furthermore, the pollsters created a new voter segmentation for the October poll analysis and found that nearly two-thirds of voters self-identified as neither a “very conservative Republican” nor a “very liberal Democrat,” suggesting the existence of a potentially sizeable centrist coalition.
According to Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group, “Most voters are not ideologues who want to fight to the bitter end, but rather are pragmatists who want solutions that will improve their lives. Political leaders would do well to work to pass these types of life improving policy solutions. While things look bleak today with frustrated voters, a struggling economy, and foreign policy setbacks, there is a path to brighter days.”
Some Key Findings
President Biden’s approval down and it’s across all issues
- Americans’ views of President Biden have declined since the last Battleground survey. 45% approve of the President’s job performance today, including 26% who approve of it strongly, while 52% disapprove of his job performance, including 44% who disapprove strongly. In June, the inverse was true: 52% approved of his job performance, including 39% who approved strongly, while 45% disapproved, including 41% who disapproved strongly.
- President Biden has a majority job disapproval rating both on the general job approval question and on seven of the nine issues tested. In addition, those who strongly disapprove of his job performance is at or above 40% on seven of the nine issues tested.
President Biden’s slide is driven by eroding support among Independents… and Democrats
- Among Democrats, 96% gave the President positive ratings in June, while 2% gave him negative ratings, compared to 84% giving him positive job performance ratings today and 14% giving him negative ratings.
Neither party in Congress does much better. And Congressional Republicans do the worst
- A majority of voters (57%) disapprove of the job performance of the Democrats in Congress, including forty-one percent (41%) of voters who disapprove strongly.
- A full two-thirds of voters (66%) disapprove of the job performance of Congressional Republicans, with only 27% approving.
There is no dominant issue primarily driving voter concerns
- In June, a plurality of voters listed political division as one of their top two concerns, making it the most salient issue tested. In October, voter’s concerns are far more spread out.
|Most important issue||1st
|Division in the country||11%||10%||21%|
|Rising cost of living||11%||8%||19%|
Concerns about the economy and inflation are higher than June
- Voters are also registering considerably more economic anxiety than they were in June, when 4% said jobs and the economy were the top issues and 5% said they were the second most important issues. In the latest survey, 10% of voters cite jobs and the economy as the top issues, and 11% as the second most important issues.
A majority of voters support vaccine mandates
- The situation around COVID presents a bright spot for President Biden. With over three quarters of respondents (77%) saying they themselves are vaccinated, a majority of voters (52%) approve of the job Biden has done handling COVID. A majority of voters also favor that state governments and the Federal government (51%) as well as businesses themselves (51%) have vaccination requirements for their employees.
- Fifty-one percent of voters support state governments, the federal government and their contractors to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, including 44% who support them strongly, while 47% oppose such requirements, including 41% who oppose them strongly.
- Voters also support private businesses requiring their employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine (51% support, including 42% who support strongly, while 45% oppose, including 37% who oppose strongly). Nineteen percent of Republicans support this type of requirement, while 78% oppose it.
- Fully 88% of voters had the same view on both mandates – either favoring both (46%) or opposing both (42%).
- Biden’s job rating on COVID is the one issue voters assess him net-positively and with higher marks than his overall job rating (52% approve, 45% disapprove).
- Seventy-one percent of voters who watch Fox News channel “daily” oppose the government requiring employees and contractors to be vaccinated; 26% are in favor. Among voters who identify as watching Foxs News “not at all,” 34% oppose vaccine requirements by the government and 64% are in favor.
- These trends continue when voters are asked if they support private businesses requiring employees to be vaccinated. Among “daily” Fox News viewers, 24% favor private businesses requiring vaccinations and 66% oppose. 10% of voters select “unsure.” 63% of voters who report watching Fox News “not at all” favor private businesses requiring employees to be vaccinated; 34% oppose and 3% select unsure.
Voters are split closely over preferences on election reform
- Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters select a preference for letting Congress and the federal government take the lead on election reform issues while forty-two percent (42%) of voters select a preference for letting state and local officials set these election policies.
- Democrats overwhelmingly favor national standards (70% to 19%), Republicans favor state and local rules and standards by similar margins (64% to 25%) and independents are in the middle but resemble Republicans more than Democrats on this question (52% to 33%).
There is a staunch generational divide on the topic of ending student loan debt
- On the proposed policy to have the U.S. government end the remaining student loan debt for most student loan borrowers, voters are split nearly evenly at forty-seven percent (47%) favor and forty-eight percent (48%) oppose.
- Ending remaining student loan debt enjoys seventy-five percent (75%) support among liberal Democrats.
- Voters under 35 support ending student loan debt for most student loan borrowers by a whopping 2:1 margin (65% favor to 29% oppose), a position shared by almost half of voters 35-44 (48% favor to 47% oppose) and nearly as many seniors (46% favor to 48% oppose).
- Voters 45-64 are the only major age cohort to array themselves against ending student loan debt (39% favor to 56% oppose).
Independents are very disapproving overall and on every issue set
- Among independents, 39% whom gave Biden positive ratings and 52% negative ratings in June, compared to 34% positive and 58% negative today.
- Independents give Biden negative ratings on COVID-19 (41% approve, 53% disapprove), the economy (33% approve, 60% disapprove), jobs (37% approve, 53% disapprove) and working with congress to pass legislation (33% approve, 56% disapprove), Biden’s job performance on inflation (24% approve, 65% disapprove), the cost of living (25% approve, 67% disapprove), immigration (27% approve, 66% disapprove), foreign policy (30% approve, 58% disapprove) and dealing with Afghanistan (24% approve, 67% disapprove).
Voters desire civility in politics while finding it elusive
- When asked to rate the current level of polarization in the country on a scale from 0 (no political division) to 100 (edge of civil war), the mean response is 72.96. When asked to predict the level of polarization one year from now on the same scale, voters say it will be marginally worse, with a mean response of 74.05.
- Among Independents, division in the country (14%), rising cost of living (11%), and government spending (11%) are the top ranked issues.
- 68% of independents prefer a politician who will work together and compromise, 19% prefer a politician who consistently fights for their values, compared to 72% who prefer a politician who will work together and compromise, 20% who prefer a politician who consistently fights for their values in June.
- Only 33% of voters believe the President has worked extremely or very hard to restore unity and civility to politics. 44% of voters believe he has “not at all” worked at it.
- About one in five respondents say they do not have friends with political views different from their own. About one in four say they have family members with whom they are no longer able to talk because of their views on politics and current events.
The latest GU Politics Battleground Poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted by Republican pollster and former GU Politics Fellow Ed Goeas and Brian Nienaber of the Tarrance Group, and Democratic pollsters Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff, Sandra Markowitz, and McCauley Pugh of Lake Research Partners between October 16, 2021 and October 21, 2021, and has a margin of error of + 3.1%
To learn more about the poll, see the questionnaire, charts, tables, and analysis visit: https://politics.georgetown.edu/battleground-poll/
Academics, researchers, and journalists can also access the full dataset to assist in their own research and analyses. [Note: Any use of this data and material must credit the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Poll.]
ABOUT THE GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE BATTLEGROUND POLL:
The Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Poll is a national bipartisan survey measuring political opinion and civility among registered voters in the United States. Produced by Republican strategist Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic strategist Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, this polling series offers unique polling analysis and insights from two top pollsters from different sides of the aisle.
Initiated in June 1991, and housed at GU Politics since April 2019, the Battleground Polls have gained widespread media recognition as reliable bellwethers of national opinion and voters’ intentions. The Battleground data projected the outcome of the 1992, 1996, and 2004 presidential race more precisely than any other similar effort in the country, including those of the major TV networks and national newspapers. In addition, Battleground Polls have consistently been major predictors of what is going to happen in approaching Congressional elections.
With the GU Politics partnership, a Civility Poll was introduced in 2019 to track voter attitudes about polarization in politics.
ABOUT THE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE:
The Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) connects and empowers students and the broader community to improve and reimagine politics and public service and reaffirm its promise. Founded as part of the McCourt School of Public Policy in the fall of 2015, GU Politics programming is open to the entire Georgetown community.
ABOUT THE MCCOURT SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY:
The Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy is a top-ranked public policy school located in Washington, D.C., the heart of the policy world. The McCourt School’s mission is to teach our students to design, analyze, and implement smart policies and put them into practice in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, in the U.S. and around the world.