Biden poll uptick likely less than meets the eye: The Note

Democrats have been looking for positive signs to shape their messaging.

May 02, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll contains a rare dose of bright news for Democrats – a president with an approval rate nosing up, and the party back to parity with Republicans on the generic congressional ballot.

But the reality, barely six months out from the midterms, remains grim for the party in power. That’s evident both inside the same polling numbers and in the pending legislative agenda that continues to pit different segments of the Democratic base against themselves.

President Joe Biden gained 5 percentage points in his overall approval rating since February in the ABC/Post polling, but remains underwater by 10 points, 42-52% approve-disapprove. Democrats clawed back 10 points in congressional preference since last November, to a 46-45% virtual tie among all voters and a 42-42% deadlock among independents, yet that’s a good measure beneath levels that historically have led to Democrats controlling the House.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks at the memorial service for former Vice President Walter Mondale, Sunday, May 1, 2022, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
President Joe Biden speaks at the memorial service for former Vice President Walter Mondale, Sunday, May 1, 2022, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

On what might be the single biggest issue, a whopping 94% say they’re either “upset” or “concerned” by inflation. Biden’s approval rating on that issue is upside-down by 40 points, 28-68% approve-disapprove, while Republicans hold a 19-point edge on trust to handle inflation and 14 points on handling the economy.

The new poll shows relative strength for the president on handling the war in Ukraine and COVID. But while Biden is framing his latest massive spending asks on both fronts as urgent, both could snag on intra-party divisions on immigration and Title 42 in Congress, as Democrats fear the same forces at play in this poll and more.

The president poked fun at his polling at Saturday’s White House Correspondents Association dinner: “I’m really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have.”

Democrats have been looking for positive signs to shape their messaging. With midterm voting starting in earnest this week, it’s not yet clear that they’re getting closer to finding them.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

As primary day approaches in Ohio, early voting numbers in the state could be a sign of things to come during the general election.

According to data released by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Republicans outnumber Democrats in early in-person voting, the number of absentee ballots requested, and the number of ballots submitted. In comparison to 2018, Republican participation in the early vote is slightly up, while Democratic participation is down by a larger margin.

Republican voters requested 91,365 ahead of the May 3 primary, in comparison 91,050 in 2018. Democrats have only requested 87,693 ballots, in contrast to 115,005 in 2018.

PHOTO: FILE - Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is acknowledged by former President Donald Trump at a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio, ahead of the Ohio primary on May 3.
FILE - Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is acknowledged by former President Donald Trump at a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio, to endorse Republican candidates ahead of the Ohio primary on May 3. Add one more contest to the white-hot races for Congress and governor that will dominate this year's midterm elections: secretaries of state.
Joe Maiorana/AP

While this could be a byproduct of the slew of competitive (not to mention expensive) GOP primaries in the state, like the senate race, it could also be indicative of the levels of enthusiasm of voters for each party.

According to the latest ABC/Washington Post Poll, 52% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s performance overall, versus 42% who approve. Those who “strongly” disapprove outnumber strong approvers by a 2-1 margin, potentially indicating motivation to vote in the fall.

The jury is still out if Ohio lives up to its history as a swing state. As Democrats approach these high-stakes midterm elections, which historically don’t favor the party in power, the enthusiasm gap should be a major concern.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Speaker Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Ukraine with a surprise weekend visit to the war-torn country alongside a group of House Democrats. The visit marked the first trip by a congressional delegation since the start of the war in late February.

"We believe that we are visiting you to say thank you for your fight for freedom. That we are on a frontier of freedom and that your fight is a fight for everyone and so our commitment is to be there for you until your fight is done,” said Pelosi during a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

PHOTO: TOPSHOT - A handout photo released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on May 1, 2022, shows President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy meeting US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi during their meeting in Kyiv.
TOPSHOT - A handout photo released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on May 1, 2022, shows President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky (R) presents the Order of Princess Olga to US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi for "her significant personal contribution to strengthening Ukrainian-American interstate cooperation and supporting sovereign, independent and democratic Ukraine" during their meeting in Kyiv.
Stringer/UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER

The trip by Pelosi — who is third in line to the presidency and is the highest-ranking American official to visit Kyiv yet— came just days after Biden called on Congress to approve $33 billion of additional funding in aid for Ukraine. Despite bipartisan support, the request from the White House could end up getting tangled in other legislative debates.

A similar dovetail appears to be evident in the American public's perception of the ongoing conflict abroad. According to the latest polling by ABC News/Washington Post, 55% of Americans favor increased military support for Ukraine and 76% support an increase in humanitarian aid. However, Americans express paralleling concerns about the war —81% are concerned about the war expanding to other countries, and 66% are worried about sanctions contributing to higher economic costs.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

23. That’s the percentage of voters who backed author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance in an April 20-24 Fox News poll, which is a 12-percentage point improvement from where Vance finished in a previous March 2-6 Fox News poll. Why the sudden change in Vance’s fortunes? As FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich writes, that has everything to do with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Vance on April 15. Read more from Nathaniel on the highly competitive GOP Ohio Senate primary and what to watch this Tuesday — and as a reminder, FiveThirtyEight will be liveblogging this race and more on Tuesday, so be sure to join us at fivethirtyeight.com!

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Monday morning with the visit to Ukraine by the highest-ranking U.S. official yet. ABC's Patrick Reevell reports on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's top-secret trip. Then, ABC's Deirdre Bolton breaks down what went wrong with the economy in April and previews the Fed's plans for runaway inflation. And, ABC's Sony Salzman discusses the mystery surrounding a surge of hepatitis cases in children around the world. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Tuesday for the latest.

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