Broad doubts about Biden’s age and acuity spell Republican opportunity in 2024
President Joe Biden's job approval rating hit a career low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll and a broad 68% of Americans say he's too old for another term as president -- views that put him in a trailing position against top Republicans in early preferences for 2024.
Just 44% see Biden's potential opponent, Donald Trump, as too old. (Trump is 76; Biden, 80.) Beyond chronological age, Trump far surpasses Biden in being seen as having the mental sharpness and the physical health it takes to serve effectively as president, with wide doubts about Biden on both fronts.
Another difference looks equally problematic for Biden should Trump emerge as the Republican nominee: Americans by 54-36% say Trump did a better job handling the economy when he was president than Biden has done in his term so far.
Trump is not Biden's only challenge: Given his weaknesses, both Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lead Biden in preference for the presidency in 2024.
Indicative of those results, Biden's approval rating, battered by inflation, is just 36% in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. That's down 6 percentage points from February and a point off Biden's previous low in early 2022. Fifty-six percent disapprove of his performance.
Biden's approval rating is numerically the lowest on record for any first-term president a year and a half from the next presidential election in polling dating to Harry Truman. Similar was Gerald Ford, at 40% approval in May 1975; Jimmy Carter, at 37% in May 1979; and Trump, at 39% in April 2019. None were re-elected.
Trump, while the clear leader for the GOP nomination, has challenges of his own. Fifty-six percent say he should face criminal charges in investigations of whether he tried illegally to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. About as many as 54% say he should face charges in investigations of his handling of classified documents after leaving office and his role in events leading to the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January 2021. Fewer, about four in 10 in each case, say he should not be charged.
There's a closer division in views about the charges of falsifying business records on which Trump has been indicted in New York. Forty-nine percent say this case was "brought appropriately, to hold Trump accountable under the law like anyone else." Forty-four percent think it was brought "inappropriately, to try to hurt Trump politically."
Ninety percent of Democrats think the charges are appropriate; 82% of Republicans say they're inappropriate. Independents split 47-40%.
Perhaps reflecting the legal swirl around Trump, Biden scores 8 points better on another personal characteristic, being honest and trustworthy. But neither is well-rated on the attribute. Biden is seen as honest and trustworthy by 41% of Americans, Trump by 33%.
Regardless, Trump outperforms his in-party rivals at this early stage of the 2024 contest. In an open-ended question, 43% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say they'd like to see the party nominate Trump for president next year, and when the six best-known candidates are named, he advances to 51%. That's double the preference for his nearest potential opponent, DeSantis, at 25%.
DeSantis comes closest to Trump, 27% versus 36%, among moderates. But there aren't that many of them in the party. Conservatives, who account for about two-thirds of Republicans and Republican leaners, favor Trump over DeSantis by 55-27%.
That said, substantial majorities of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they would be satisfied with either Trump (75%) or DeSantis (64%) as their party's nominee. Fewer than a quarter would be dissatisfied with either; more are undecided about DeSantis. Satisfaction with Trump was far lower -- 51% -- as he fought for the nomination in March 2016.
Compare Trump's position to Biden's in his party: Just 36% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would like to see their party nominate Biden for president next year. Fifty-eight percent prefer someone other than Biden, unchanged from February.
Looking (far) ahead to November 2024, in a Biden-Trump matchup, 44% of Americans say they'd definitely or probably vote for Trump, 38% for Biden, with 12% undecided. When the undecideds are asked how they lean, it's 49-42%, Trump-Biden.
A Biden-DeSantis matchup looks essentially the same. Forty-two percent of Americans say they'd definitely or probably vote for DeSantis, 37% for Biden, with 16% undecided. Including undecideds who lean either way, it's 48-41%, DeSantis-Biden.
These results -- with DeSantis doing as well as Trump against Biden -- suggest that Biden's challenge is not about Trump per se, but about perceptions of Biden himself.
Notably, among those who say Trump should face criminal charges in the investigations into whether he illegally tried to overturn the 2020 election results, 18% are inclined to vote for him over Biden anyway. Seventy-one percent in this group take Biden.
At the same time, among people who say Biden is too old for the job, 36% are inclined to support him anyway, while 54% in this group favor Trump. One reason is that among people who say Biden is too old, 62% also say Trump is too old.
Biden already is the nation's oldest president. As mentioned, 68% see him as too old for another term; this includes 43% who see both Biden and Trump as too old and 26% who say so only of Biden. Fewer -- 44% -- see Trump as too old while, again, 43% say this about Trump and Biden alike and a scant 1% say it about Trump only.
Nearly half of Democrats -- 48% -- say Biden is too old for another term; about as many say the same about Trump. Many more independents -- 75% -- say this about Biden, versus 51% for Trump. Among Republicans, 79% see Biden as too old; just 28% say this of Trump.
Among adults age 65 and older, 62% see Biden as too old, versus 40% who say the same about Trump. Among the youngest adults, aged 18 to 29, 75% see Biden as too old, versus 53% for Trump.
Beyond age alone are questions of mental acuity and physical health. Just 32% overall think Biden has the mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president, down steeply from 51% when he was running for president three years ago. More -- 54% -- think Trump has the required mental sharpness, in his case up 8 points from three years ago. The gap is even wider in terms of having the physical health to serve effectively -- just 33% think Biden has it, versus 64% for Trump.
Ninety-four percent of Republicans and 69% of independents think Biden lacks the mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively, as do 21% of Democrats. As with age, these views aren't entirely determinative of voter preferences: Among people who fault Biden on this question, 15% support him against Trump anyway.
Beyond broad appeal, these doubts about Biden seem to limit his strength of support, a potential factor in bringing voters to the polls. Just 18% of Americans strongly approve of Biden's performance in office, essentially flat since late in his first year. Trump, at this point four years ago, had more strong support -- 28%.
A key difference is within Biden's own party. As reflected in opposition to his being the 2024 nominee, just 37% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents voice strong approval for Biden's work in office. Among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents four years ago, Trump's strong approval was far higher -- 58%.
Biden has trouble across a range of groups. His approval rating from Black people, a core Democratic group, is just 52%, down from 82% when he took office. Indeed, 27% of Black people say they'd definitely or probably vote for Trump in 2024, or lean toward him. Trump won 12% of Black voters in 2020.
Biden has even lower approval -- 40% -- from Hispanic people (a point from his low) and 32% among white people (matching his low). In a Biden-Trump matchup, 43% of Hispanic people say they'd definitely or probably support Trump or lean that way. Trump won 32% of Hispanic voters in the last election.
Biden is at a low in approval among women, another key group for Democrats, with 39% approval, and, at 30%, matches his low among independents, often a swing voter group. Indeed, independents currently slightly favor Trump over Biden, 48-39%. Biden won 54% of independents in 2020.
Among other groups, Biden is at a low of 40% approval among moderates. Half in this group now say they're inclined to vote for him over Trump in 2024. In 2020, Biden did far better among moderates, with 64% support.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone April 28-May 3, 2023, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,006 adults. Partisan divisions are 26-25-41%, Democrats-Republicans-independents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Sampling error is not the only source of differences in polls.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey's methodology here.