CNN Poll: Biden Hurting

Yesterday, CNN released a national poll that specifically tested President Joe Biden’s support within the Democratic primary and some of the underlying numbers showed certain areas of severe weakness.

There are some potential methodological flaws in the poll, however, that may indicate the numbers aren’t quite as bad as a first glance might suggest.

The CNN poll is conducted by the SSRS statistical firm. The FiveThirtyEight pollster ranking system, according to their most recent report released March 13th, rates SSRS as a C+ pollster. The organization calculates a 2.5 percent Democratic bias factor for the firm over 32 studies, though such a trend is not reflected in this current poll as you will see below.

In this particular survey, conducted during the May 17-20 period, 1,227 individuals were interviewed either through live interviews or in a follow up text. A total of 432 individuals identified as Democrats or Independents who lean Democratic were posed the Democratic primary questions.

Obviously, a national survey of 432 individuals is too small to obtain the most accurate picture of the particular voting universe. Additionally, regarding the overall numbers, 30% of the sample identified as Republican or lean Republican as opposed to 29% who said they are aligned with the Democrats. Another 41% said they are Independent or belong to a minor party.

Typical national surveys give the Democrats an edge over Republicans in the range of 2-4 percentage points. Therefore, though the responses are weighted to reflect the general voting population, this overall sampling universe appears to have a slight Republican skew. Though the responses certainly highlight image problems for President Biden, the negative degree may not be quite as dire as these reported responses suggest due to the minor tilt toward the GOP.

The President’s overall job approval rating according to this sampling universe is a poor 35:57% favorable to unfavorable. This ratio represents a net eight-point drop (5 point drop in the favorable category; 3 point increase in the unfavorable category) since CNN’s last poll conducted in January. This ratio is slightly skewed toward the negative due to the Republican over-sample, but the overall sentiment still clearly indicates the President’s image is moving downward.

The most devasting response on this poll relates to a rather unique question. The CNN pollsters also asked the same question pertaining to former President Donald Trump possibly winning the 2024 election. The pollster queries the respondents as to whether they believe re-electing President Biden or Trump will lead to a “disaster for the country, a setback, a step forward, or a triumph for the country.”

The Biden numbers, in particular, are highly negative. A total of 66% of the respondents believe the country would be headed toward disaster (41%) or a setback (25%) if the current President wins re-election. Regarding Mr. Trump, 56% answered in the negative (44% disaster; 12% setback). In terms of the positive responses, 34% said continuing the Biden Administration would be favorable (27% a step forward; 7% a triumph). Yet, former President Trump’s numbers were surprisingly better. A total of 44% responded positively to a new Trump Administration (27% a step forward; 17% a triumph).

In the presidential primary, asked just of the self-identified Democratic coalition, 60% would support President Biden for renomination, while 20% would vote for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and 8% for author Marianne Williamson. Not all of the Biden number is solid, however. Again, just within the Democratic coalition, 42% said they “might change their mind about Biden.” 

While even the presidential primary numbers show political weakness for the President, answers to one further question don’t seem to make sense. When asked of those claiming to belong to the Democratic coalition if President Biden will win the party nomination, only 55% said they do so believe. This is an astonishingly low number for a President who faces what looks to be only minor opposition in the Democratic primaries.

In conclusion, this poll uncovers some severe points of weakness that President Biden and his campaign must address. Though in a less than enviable position at this early point in the campaign, he still must be considered at least a slight favorite to win the general election. Such is a reasonable conclusion because so few states are in the swing category while the vast majority remain intransigently committed to one party or the other.

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