President Joe Biden’s popularity improved substantially from his lowest point this summer, but concerns about his handling of the economy persist, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Support for President Biden recovered from a low of 36% in July to 45%, driven in large part by a rebound in support from Democrats just two months before the November midterm elections. During a few bleak summer months when gasoline prices peaked and lawmakers appeared deadlocked, the Democrats faced the possibility of blowout losses against Republicans.
Their outlook appears better after notching a string of legislative successes that left more Americans ready to judge the Democratic president on his preferred terms: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.”
The president’s approval rating remains underwater, with 53% of U.S. adults disapproving of him, and the economy continues to be a weakness for President Biden. Just 38% approve of his economic leadership as the country faces stubbornly high inflation and Republicans try to make household finances the axis of the upcoming vote.
Still, the poll suggests President Biden and his fellow Democrats are gaining momentum right as generating voter enthusiasm and turnout takes precedence.
Average gas prices have tumbled 26% since June to $3.71 a gallon, reducing the pressure somewhat on family budgets even if inflation remains high. Congress also passed a pair of landmark bills in the past month that could reshape the economy and reduce carbon emissions.
Republicans have also faced resistance since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and its abortion protections. And Biden is openly casting former President Donald Trump as a fundamental threat to democracy, a charge that took on resonance after an FBI search of Trump's Florida home found classified documents that belong to the U.S. government.
This combination of factors has won President Biden some plaudits among the Democratic faithful, even if Americans still feel lukewarm about his leadership.
The president's approval rating didn't exceed 40% in May, June or July as inflation surged in the aftermath of Russia invading Ukraine.
The president's rating now is similar to what it was throughout the first quarter of the year, but he continues to fall short of early highs. His average approval rating in AP-NORC polling through the first six months of his term was 60%.
Driving the recent increase in the president's popularity is renewed support among Democrats, who had shown signs of dejection in the early summer. Now, 78% of Democrats approve of President Biden’s job performance, up from 65% in July. Sixty-six percent of Democrats approve of his job on the economy, up from 54% in June.
Republicans feel just as negative about the president as they did before. Only about 1 in 10 Republicans approve of the president overall or on the economy, similar to ratings earlier this summer.
About a quarter of Americans now say things in the country are headed in the right direction, 27%, up from 17% in July. Seventy-two percent say things are going in the wrong direction.
Close to half of Democrats — 44% — have an optimistic outlook, up from 27% in July. Just 9% of Republicans are optimistic about the nation’s direction.
The poll of 1,054 adults was conducted Sep. 9-12 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.