• Only about half now say they like what the president’s record shows
  • Donald J. Trump supporters comprise half of GOP voters pondering the best 2024 candidate

ST. LEO, FL – The latest national survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (polls.saintleo.edu) shows that a combined 52.1 percent of Americans surveyed in October say they strongly approve (24.6 percent) or somewhat approve (27.5 percent) of the job President Joe Biden is doing. That’s down from the 60.9 percent approval rating Americans in the Saint Leo survey awarded Biden in February, when his presidency was less than one month old.

The newer results, collected online between October 17 and 23, have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. The October results also show that 13.4 percent of Americans surveyed say they somewhat disapprove of Biden’s work, while 31. 5 percent strongly disapprove, amounting to 44.9 percent registering dissatisfaction. Only 3 percent have no opinion.

The “honeymoon effect” that Biden enjoyed in February polling has clearly disappeared, and that is part of the reason his approval numbers dropped, said political scientist Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and a political science instructor at the university.

Meanwhile, 26.3 percent of those polled nationally say jobs and the economy constitute the single most important problem facing the nation, making it the most commonly named issue. The next most common answer cited was the COVID-19 pandemic, selected by 17.8 percent of respondents in October. COVID ranked at the top of the same list in February.

“During a fall in which infection cases are fortunately declining across the country,” Orlando said, “we’re starting to see a shift away from COVID-19 and back toward the economy as the big issue for voters. Now the question is: Will Joe Biden receive credit for the return to normalcy brought about by a fading of the Delta variant, or will he be punished for an economy that still has many weaknesses, according to consumers?”

The survey results also show that while 86 percent of Democrats in the sample and 44.4 percent of independents approve of the president’s work performance, only 26.2 percent of Republicans view his performance positively. Among demographic groups polled, African Americans and Hispanics were among Biden’s biggest supporters, with 76.4 percent and 62.6 percent, respectively, indicating approval. Of white voters, 44. 5 percent approve of the Democratic president.

About half of the survey’s 272 Catholic voters, specifically 53.3 percent of them, approve of Biden, which essentially mirrors the overall population’s opinion of the Catholic president. Orlando commented that, “It’s not surprising that Catholic approval mimics the overall population, given that Catholic voters care more about party than religious identity when evaluating politicians.”

Other prominent Democrats rated in work performance

The polling results for Biden set the pace for other key Democratic politicians.

Fewer than half of the overall 1,000 respondents, 47.3 percent, either strongly approve or somewhat approve of the work done by Vice President Kamala Harris. She is about as popular as Biden is with Democrats, with 82.2 percent indicating they approve of her work. Also, 77.2 percent of African Americans approve of the vice president, as do 55.2 percent of Hispanic respondents, compared to 39.3 percent of white respondents. Women do not approve of the first female vice president in larger numbers than men: 46.2 percent of women approve of her job performance, compared with 48.4 percent of men.

As for legislative leaders: 39.9 percent approve, either strongly or somewhat, of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is held in similar regard; 38.7 percent of those polled approved strongly or somewhat of his work performance.

“It’s also not surprising,” Orlando said, “that various Congressional leaders rank below President Biden. The Senate and the House are seen as so dysfunctional that it would be a very worrying sign for the president if their approval matched his.”

Looking ahead to 2024

Self-identified Democrats in the sample were asked which candidate or candidates (multiple answers were permitted) they might support for president in 2024 in the event of competition for the party nomination. From a long list that did not include President Biden, respondents selected Kamala Harris with the greatest frequency, with the vice president’s name appearing in 42 percent of responses. Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s name collected one-third of the responses (34.4 percent), and was followed by Vermont U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at 22.9 percent. Sanders’ name essentially tied for popularity with the Georgia politician and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who attracted 22.3 percent of responses.

What GOP voters think

When self-identified Republican survey respondents were asked to think about their party’s 2024 presidential nominee, they were also able to name multiple individuals—and they were asked to consider two possible scenarios. The first included former President Donald J. Trump among the choices, and the second scenario omitted him.

With the former president as a possibility, Trump was the top preference among the national sample: 53.1 percent of responses named him, while former Vice President Mike Pence trailed with 31. 7 percent. The next most popular choice was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, named by 25.1 percent of the national sample of Republicans.

When the same questions were asked of those in the Florida-only sample of Republicans, the Florida governor benefitted from the home-state advantage. Among the responses from Sunshine State Republicans, 56.4 percent named Donald Trump, who is a Florida resident, and 52.9 percent named DeSantis. Winding up in a third-place tie in Florida were Ted Cruz, U.S. senator from Texas with 26.7 percent of the mentions and former Vice President Pence with 25 percent—not a sum that is significantly different from Cruz.

Orlando, the Saint Leo University polling director, said that “being removed from social media may have been a blessing for former President Trump. Even among his supporters, his tweets were seen as his least popular attribute. Given the removal of Trump’s ability to drop daily reminders of what people didn’t like about him, Republican voters will inevitably compare the Biden presidency [which they disapprove of strongly] with the Trump presidency. It remains to be seen whether Ron DeSantis can surpass Trump over the next few years, but it is clear that if Donald Trump decides to run again, he’ll be in a very formidable position in the Republican primary.”

About the Poll

METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from October 17, 2021, through October 23, 2021, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.

The statewide survey was also conducted during the same time period, among a base of 500 respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

Media contacts:

Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-8237 or  (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).   

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, mary.mccoy02@saintleo.edu, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 57 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 18,200 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 98,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.