As President Biden contends with mounting challenges at home and abroad, including 40-year high inflation, surging crime, supply-chain problems, a declining stock market, and the war in Ukraine, his poll numbers paint a grim picture for his re-election prospects in 2024. His approval ratings remain mired in the low-40s.
However, in our latest Swing Voter Project focus groups, conducted on May 10th with 13 “Trump-to-Biden” voters from Georgia, we learned that none would take Trump back if Biden were running against him again and the election hypothetically were held tomorrow.
“I just feel like as a person, [Joe Biden] is a better role model than Trump. I have young kids, and I just didn’t want my kids to think that’s who we’re supposed to be looking up to,” remarked Kayla, 34, from Decatur.
“Trump is such a loose cannon,” explained Laura, 44, from Marietta. “As much as I’m kind of ho-hum about Biden, I think right now with the culture, what’s going on in our world in addition to Covid, what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine, I just can’t imagine what might go on with Trump and being such a loose cannon, and him just saying whatever seems to pop out of his head. I would be afraid of the repercussions of that.”
Curtis, 62, from Lawrenceville, commented, “What [Biden’s] been doing with the Ukraine over there…He’s sure giving them artillery. His wife went over there. I’ll tell you what: I was questioning [my decision] when I voted [for Joe Biden]. Now, I’m glad I did. I would stand by him [because of what he’s doing in Ukraine].”
“I think it’s better than how things were with Trump,” explained Kayleigh, 33, from Atlanta. “I think that no President is perfect, and there’s no one that can run the country perfectly when nothing bad happens. Do we prefer how things are now or how things are with Trump? I prefer how things are now.”
And, notably, only two of the 13 regret voting for President Biden:
Tashay, 37, from Atlanta, explained, “I just don’t feel like a lot of what [Joe Biden] spoke about is being fulfilled. I feel like he used a lot of things that people did care about to put some things in place that are not OK. He sounded more sure of his own plan in the beginning. He doesn’t seem sure anymore of his own actions. He seems like he’s there, but he’s not there at all enough for me to have voted for him to be the President.”
These sentiments were echoed by Rio, 33, from East Point, who added, “[Joe Biden] isn’t doing exactly what he said. He got a lot of us people behind him on some things he was promising he was going to do, and he hasn’t fulfilled it yet. I’m just not happy with him. I’m unsatisfied. He’s doing a lot of other stuff than the stuff that he needs to really be doing.”
The feedback we received from these swing voters—three Democrats, six Republicans, and four independents—indicates many are lukewarm towards Biden, but a second Trump term would be a bridge too far. Emotions they feel most strongly when they see President Biden on TV or on their device ranged from “uneasy” and “disappointed” to “comforted” and “hopeful.”
And despite inflation being a major concern for nearly all of these swing voters—with much higher prices expected into 2023—none are placing a large share of the blame on President Biden or solely on Democrats. When asked a top-of-mind question about who is responsible for inflation, respondents cited Covid, corporations, Russia, and both political parties combined—but neither the President nor his party specifically.
This lack of direct blame for inflation may offer slight consolation to President Biden when his polling numbers are virtually the same as former President Trump’s at the same point in their respective presidencies. What is probably more valuable to President Biden from a public opinion standpoint is the deeply-held negative perception of former President Trump – a perspective that is unlikely to change.
Rich Thau is the president of the research firm Engagious, which specializes in message testing and message refinement for trade associations and advocacy groups. He is also the moderator of the Swing Voter Project, conducted in partnership with Schlesinger Group.
Matt Steffee is vice president of research services at Engagious.