As President Joe Biden steps up to deliver the State of the Union tonight, Americans are increasingly skeptical about the direction of the country and unhappy with the current leadership in Washington.
Barely four in ten Americans believe the state of the union is strong, falling from a majority who felt it was in 2018, according to a Monmouth University Poll released Feb. 7. Public opinion on the job the U.S. Congress is doing overall stands at 19% approving and 67% disapproving. This is slightly more negative than in December 2022 (26% approve and 62% disapprove). And less quarter of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction.
Turning to overall performance ratings for President Biden, 43% approve of the job he is doing as President while 48% disapprove. The current rating is similar to December 2022 (42% approve and 50% disapprove) before the revelations of classified documents at his home broke and up from the low 36% approve and 58% disapprove in June 2022.
Concerns About the Union
Seven percent of the American publican felt the union is “very strong” while 32% said it was “somewhat strong.” That was compared to 32% who said the union is not too strong and 26% who believed it was not strong at all.
When compared to prior answers on this question, Monmouth University found a steady decline for those who believed the union is at least somewhat strong. In 2018, the figure was at 55%.
Clear Partisan Divides
Monmouth University noted that Republicans were more optimistic under the Trump Administration, with 71% giving the union a strong rating in 2019. That number was 29% in 2023.
Conversely, Democrats were more likely to rate the union as strong under the Biden Administration, with 58% saying the union was strong in 2023 compared to 34% in 2019.
“Fundamental faith in the American system continues to erode, even when taking into account the fact that partisan views shift depending on who occupies the White House,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Distrusting the Federal Government
Respondents in the poll feel the federal government has a negative impact on people’s lives, with 59% of those surveyed reporting as such. Overall, just 16% found the federal government had a positive impact.
“Washington is not seen as a force for good, but it doesn’t have to be this way according to most Americans. The question is whether Washington specifically and the country more generally can overcome the lack of trust that permeates our current political climate,” said Murray.
A View of the House
Standing behind President Biden for the first time will be Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, whose job approval is currently at 19% compared with 35% disapproving. Nearly half (46%) of the American public doesn’t know enough about him to form an opinion. The current results are only slightly different from the ratings he earned in December when he was still the minority leader.
The main change has been a positive shift among his fellow Republicans, to 41% approve and 11% disapprove in the current poll from 29% approve and 20% disapprove at the end of last year. Still, about half (48%) of Republicans have no opinion of him.
“Despite the drama of 15 rounds of voting, McCarthy starts his speakership as a relatively unknown commodity,” said Murray.
Only about one-third of the public has an opinion of the newly elected House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, registering a split of 18% approve and 16% disapprove.
Among his fellow Democrats, Jeffries earns a positive 37% approve and 7% disapprove rating, although a majority have not formed an opinion of him yet. Before former Speaker Nancy Pelosi left her leadership post, she held an overwhelmingly positive 69% approve and 10% disapprove rating among her fellow Democrats.
In the upper chamber, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remains the least popular congressional leader. He earns negative ratings from the public as a whole (12% approve and 52% disapprove) as well as among his fellow Republicans (15%–45%).
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earns a 24% approve and 37% disapprove rating from all Americans, but a positive 54% to 9% rating among Democrats.
The Jersey Shore polling outlet found just 24% of Americans felt the country was headed in the right direction, while 73% said things have gotten off on the wrong track.
In general, more Americans tend to believe the problems in Washington are due to a lack of compromise among elected officials rather than them sticking to principles. But the majority feared the country would suffer significant damage if politicians at the opposite end of the political spectrum were able to control policymaking.
“Americans are not entirely in agreement whether Washington needs more compromise. There is a deep-seated distrust of folks at the other end of the political spectrum,,” said Murray. “That’s not a good situation for a functioning democracy to be in.”
“You need a critical mass of the public to feel the world won’t fall apart if the other side has the upper hand from time to time. We just don’t have that right now.”
Who cares what the American “public” thinks, since most Americans don’t bother to vote? All that matters is what likely voters think, since they determine the outcome of elections (minus the vote fraud).
And after the president’s speech tonight, a CNN flash poll of those who watched (indicative but not a scientific sample) showed that 71% now thought the country was moving in the right direction. Gotta say I’m quite proud of our president.