Biden job approval remains low; a declining share of voters say he will be a factor in their midterm vote
Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand how the public views control of Congress, issues for the upcoming midterm elections and confidence in how the elections will be conducted. For this analysis, we surveyed 7,647 adults, including 5,681 registered voters, from Aug. 1-14, 2022. The survey was primarily conducted on the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel, with an oversample of Hispanic adults from Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel.
Respondents on both panels are recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. See the Methodology section for additional details. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
While the economy remains the dominant issue in this fall’s midterm elections, the issue of abortion has increased markedly in importance among Democrats following the Supreme Court’s decision ending the federal guarantee of a right to legal abortion in the United States.
A majority of registered voters (56%) say the issue of abortion will be very important in their midterm vote, up from 43% in March. Virtually all of the increase has come among Democrats: 71% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters rate abortion as very important; fewer than half (46%) said this in March. By contrast, views among Republicans and GOP leaners have shown almost no change since then (41% now, 40% then).
The two parties are essentially tied on midterm voting intentions: 44% say that if the election were held today, they would vote for the Democratic candidate in their district or lean toward the Democrat, while 42% would vote for the Republican or lean Republican. One-in-ten registered voters say they are not sure, while 4% favor a candidate other than a Republican or a Democrat.
A larger share of Republican than Democratic voters say they have given “a lot” of thought to the upcoming elections. However, Democrats are now almost as likely as Republicans to say it “really matters” which party gains control of Congress in this fall’s midterms, which marks a change since March, when a significantly smaller share of Democrats than Republicans said this.
The new national survey by Pew Research Center was conducted among 7,647 adults, including 5,681 registered voters, from Aug. 1-14. It was largely completed before the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, as part of an investigation into whether Trump took classified records from the White House, and the enactment of a sweeping Democratic-backed bill aimed at addressing climate change, health care costs, corporate taxes and other issues.
Voters’ views about the importance of several issues – not only abortion – have changed since the spring. Compared with March, larger shares say gun policy and violent crime are very important in their voting decisions. As with abortion, these increases have come largely among Democrats. Over this period, there have been declines in the shares of voters in both parties who rate foreign policy, energy policy and the coronavirus outbreak as major issues.
Republicans continue to view the economy as by far the top issue in the upcoming elections. Nine-in-ten Republican voters view the economy as very important, roughly 20 percentage points higher than any other issue.
Among Democrats, 77% view health care as a very important voting issue, while about two-thirds or more say the same about abortion and gun policy (71% each), Supreme Court appointments (69%), the economy (67%) and climate change (66%).
Four years after a midterm election in which there was the highest voter turnout in decades, 68% of registered voters say it really matters which party wins control of Congress this fall; that is identical to the share of voters who said this in August 2018.
Republican and Democratic voters are now about equally likely to say partisan control of Congress really matters (72% of Republican voters vs. 69% of Democrats). The share of Democrats saying the outcome really matters has increased 9 percentage points since March (from 60% to 69%), while Republicans’ views have shown little change (70% in March).
Still, a larger share of Republicans (41%) than Democrats (34%) say they have given “a lot” of thought to the upcoming midterms.
The survey finds that among all adults, Joe Biden’s job approval rating remains in negative territory: 37% approve of his job performance as president, while 60% disapprove. That is unchanged since early July (37% approve) and comparable to Donald Trump’s job rating at about this point in the 2018 congressional campaign (40%).
More voters continue to view their midterm votes as an expression of opposition to Biden than support for him. However, the share of voters who say Biden is not much of a factor in their vote has increased since March among members of both parties.
Currently, about half of registered voters (49%) say Biden is not much of a factor in their midterm vote, while 31% think of their vote as a vote against Biden and 19% see it as a vote for him. The share saying Biden is not much of a factor in their voting decision has increased 11 percentage points since March.
Today, six-in-ten Democrats say Biden is not much of a factor in their midterm vote, up from 47% in March. Fewer Democrats view their vote as an expression of support for Biden than did so five months ago (36% today, 46% then).
Republicans also view Biden as less of factor in their congressional vote. Currently, 62% of Republican voters see their vote as being against Biden, while 37% say the president is not much of a factor in their voting decision. In March, 71% of GOP voters said their vote was against Biden, compared with 26% who said he was not much of a factor.
Other important findings from the survey
Republicans remain skeptical midterm elections will be conducted fairly. Majorities of registered voters say they are confident that this fall’s elections will be conducted fairly and accurately (65% are very or somewhat confident) and that all citizens who want to vote will be able to (75%). These views are little changed since March. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to have little or no confidence the elections will be conducted fairly (55% vs. 17%). And about a third of Democrats (34%) are not confident that all citizens will be able to vote, compared with just 15% of Republicans.
Views of Biden’s personal traits have turned more negative since early last year. As Biden’s job approval rating has declined since the early months of his presidency, so too have the public’s evaluations of his personal traits. Currently, a 54% majority of adults say Biden stands up for his beliefs. That is his highest rating among six traits included in the survey; in March 2021, 66% said he stood up for his beliefs. Biden gets his lowest ratings for being inspiring; 31% say this describes Biden.
Most Republicans continue to want Trump to remain a major figure. A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (63%) say they want Trump to continue to as a major national political figure for many years to come. Among those who express this view, more want Trump to run for president in 2024 (39% of all Republicans favor this) than to support another candidate who shares his view (23%). These views have changed modestly since last September, when 67% of Republicans favored Trump continuing as a major figure and 44% wanted him to run again for president.