WASHINGTON (AP) — A majority of Democrats now think one term is plenty for President Joe Biden, despite his insistence that he plans to seek reelection in 2024.
That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that shows just 37% of Democrats say they want him to seek a second term, down from 52% in the weeks before last year’s midterm elections.
While Biden has trumpeted his legislative victories and ability to govern, the poll suggests relatively few U.S. adults give him high marks on either. Follow-up interviews with poll respondents suggest that many believe the 80-year-old’s age is a liability, with people focused on his coughing, his gait, his gaffes and the possibility that the world’s most stressful job would be better suited for someone younger.
“I, honestly, think that he would be too old,” said Sarah Overman, 37, a Democrat who works in education in Raleigh, North Carolina. “We could use someone younger in the office.”
As the president gaves his State of the Union address Tuesday, he had a chance to confront fundamental doubts about his competence to govern. Biden has previously leaned heavily on his track record to say that he’s more than up to the task. When asked if he can handle the office’s responsibilities at his age, the president has often responded as if he’s accepting a dare: “Watch me.”
Democratic candidates performed better than expected in the 2022 midterm elections, a testament to Biden’s message that he is defending democracy and elevating the middle class. Democrats expanded their control of the Senate by one seat and narrowly lost their House majority even though history indicated there would be a Republican wave.
When asked about the survey’s findings at Monday’s news briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre indicated that the results in last year’s election mattered more than polling numbers.
“The way that we should look at this is what we saw from the midterms,” said Jean-Pierre, noting that the relative Democratic successes were “because the president went out there and spoke directly to the American people.”
Overall, 41% approve of how Biden is handling his job as president, the poll shows, similar to ratings at the end of last year. A majority of Democrats still approve of the job Biden is doing as president, yet their appetite for a reelection campaign has slipped despite his electoral track record. Only 22% of U.S. adults overall say he should run again, down from 29% who said so before last year’s midterm elections.
The decline among Democrats saying Biden should run again for president appears concentrated among younger people. Among Democrats age 45 and over, 49% say Biden should run for reelection, nearly as many as the 58% who said that in October. But among those under age 45, 23% now say he should run for reelection, after 45% said that before the midterms.
Linda Lockwood, a Democrat and retiree from Kansas City, Kansas, said she is not that worried about Biden’s age.
“He seems to be in pretty good condition in my opinion and that’s coming from a 76-year-old woman,” Lockwood said. “You might be a little more careful going down the steps as you get older, but if your brain is still working, that’s the important part.”
Already the oldest president in U.S. history, Biden has been dogged by questions about his age as he would be 86 if he serves a full eight years as president. He often works long days, standing for hours, remembering the names of strangers he meets while traveling who want to share a story about their lives with him.
Yet he’s been a national political figure for a half-century, having first been elected to the Senate from Delaware in 1972, and the moments when he appears lost on stage or stumbles through speeches can garner more attention than his policies.
Voters like Ross Truckey, 35, have been watching the president carefully. A lawyer in Michigan, Truckey did not vote for Biden or Republican Donald Trump in 2020. He feels as though Biden has been the latest in a string of “subpar” presidents.