The latest Zogby Poll® indicates that President Biden has made gains in both his job approval and job performance ratings. Both metrics are important categories when measuring a president's execution of his or her agenda, but they have different meanings. Job approval is based on answers to the question "Overall, do you approve or disapprove of Joe Biden's job as President?" where the respondent can choose among 'strongly approve', 'somewhat approve', 'somewhat disapprove' and 'strongly disapprove'. In contrast, job performance is based on the question "Overall, how would you rate President Biden's job performance?" with the options of rating it as excellent, good, fair, or poor.
While clearly similar, these two questions should be viewed as distinct. Job approval is more likely to be driven by a politician's overall popularity. Thus, one's approval can be fairly high driven by hyper-partisanship or popularity among a few groups, but their job performance numbers will be lower in terms of how voters judge their performance in office. We've seen this in the past with the likes of other presidents such as George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. At different times during their presidencies, each of the them enjoyed very high or decent approval numbers only to have their job performance or other metrics such as right direction/wrong direction be much lower.
We are seeing a similar patter with Joe Biden. Our new poll of 1,311 likely voters conducted December 21-22, 2021, shows Biden's approval rating creeping up to 50% (strongly approve-26% and somewhat approve-24% combined) while 48% of likely voters disapproved of him (strongly disapprove 36% and somewhat disapprove-13% combined), and 2% were not sure.
What's driving President Biden's recent surge? It's his base: voters under the age of 50 (59% approved/39% disapproved), college educated voters (58% approved/40% disapproved), urban voters (70% approved/29% disapproved), large city voters (76% approved/22% disapproved), Democrats (89% approved/11% disapproved), liberals (84% approved/15% disapproved), Catholics (55% approved/44% disapproved), African Americans (74% approved/23% disapproved), Hispanics (58% approved/41% disapproved) and voters whose annual household income is more than $100K (59% approved/39% disapproved).
The groups who most disapproved of President Biden were no big surprise, either: voters over the age of 50 (41% approved/58% disapproved), lower to middle income voters-annual household income $25K-75K (45% approved/54% disapproved), Whites (44% approved/55% disapproved), Protestants (42% approved/58% disapproved), Republicans (20% approved/79% disapproved), conservatives (25% approved/74% disapproved), suburban voters (41% approved/56% disapproved) and rural voters (33% approved/66% disapproved). Surprisingly, he did equally well with both men (50% approve/48% disapprove) and women (50% approved/49% disapproved).
The schism between those who approve and disapprove of Biden's job as president is also evident among the unique demographics we tested. These categories focused on voters' views concerning the pandemic: vaccinated voters (55% approved/43% disapproved) vs. nonvaccinated voters (34% approved/64% disapproved), voters who always wear a mask (66% approved/32% disapproved) vs. those who do not wear a mask (15% approved/84% disapproved) and voters who see Covid-19 as the most terrifying thing that has happened in their lifetime (75% approved/23% disapproved) vs. voters who see it as a flu or a common cold (16% approved/83% disapproved). Therefore, Biden's biggest support is among those who are vaccinated, wear a mask all/most of the time, and fear Covid-19, while his approval is anemic among those who are not vaccinated, do not wear a mask, and do not fear Covid-19.
Where Biden is taking it on the chin is with swing voters-the voters who propelled him to victory in the 2020 presidential election. He is not performing well with Independents (35% approved/60% disapproved), suburban voters (41% approved/56% disapproved), suburban women (45% approved/52% disapproved) and small city voters (39% approved/61% disapproved).
President Biden's job performance is still upside down, as 43% thought it was positive (excellent and good combined) compared with 55% who thought it was negative (fair and poor combined). Only two percent were not sure.
Regionally, the East (48% positive/52% negative) and West coasts (45% positive/53% negative) rated Biden's performance slightly more positive, as the South (42% positive/56% negative) and Central/Great Lakes regions (40% positive/58% negative) were more likely to give the president a negative rating. There were no surprises with age, as voters under the age of 50 (55% positive/43% negative) rated Biden's job performance positively, and voters over the age of 50 (32% positive/66% negative) gave the president a negative rating.
Where things get interesting is with gender. While conventional wisdom would think men (47% positive/51% negative) would rate the president more negatively, it was women (40% positive/58% negative) who gave the president a worse rating. Also, only a third of Independents (31% positive/65% negative) gave the president a positive rating. If this pattern holds up, it could have dire consequences for Democrats in the upcoming midterm and presidential elections in 2022 and 2024.
In a reversal of sorts, which we saw in Biden's job approval numbers, middle income voters with annual household income $25K-75K (41% positive/57% negative) were more likely to give the president a negative job performance rating compared to upper income voters who earn more than $100k annually (47% positive/51% negative).
Biden received high marks from urban voters (64% positive/35% negative), large city voters (70% positive/29% negative) and Democrats (75% positive/24% negative), while struggling with small city voters (33% positive/65% negative), suburban (34% positive/63% negative), rural (29% positive/69% negative), and suburban females (34% positive/64% negative).
Among our Covid-19 related demographics, Biden did not receive a positive job performance from self-identified vaccinated voters (47% positive/51% negative) while his rating was even worse among non-vaccinated voters (31% positive/66% negative).
Biden's scored highly with voters who strongly supported vaccine mandates (65% positive/34% negative) but the opposite was true of those who strongly opposed vaccine mandates (7% positive/91% negative). Biden also performed well with voters who wore a mask all/most of the time (56% positive/42% negative) but failed to impress voters less keen on mask-wearing (14% positive/85% negative). Biden fared better with those terrified of Covid-19 (69% positive/29% negative), while his job performance was less impressive among voters who were only scared a little bit (42% positive/56% negative) and those voters who were not scared at all of Covid-19 (14% positive/85% negative).
Zogby Analytics Poll Methodology
US Likely Voters
12/21/21 - 12/22/21
Zogby Analytics conducted an online survey of 1311 likely voters in the US.
Using internal and trusted interactive partner resources, thousands of adults were randomly invited to participate in this interactive survey. Each invitation is password coded and secure so that one respondent can only access the survey one time.
Using information based on census data, voter registration figures, CIA fact books and exit polls, we use complex weighting techniques to best represent the demographics of the population being surveyed. Weighted variables may include age, race, gender, region, party, education, and religion. The party breakdown for this survey is as follows: 38% Democrat, 38% Republican and 24% Independent/unaffiliated.
Based on a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error for 1311 is +/- 2.7 percentage points. This means that all other things being equal, the identical survey repeated will have results within the margin of error 95 times out of 100.
Subsets of the data have a larger margin of error than the whole data set. As a rule we do not rely on the validity of very small subsets of the data especially sets smaller than 50-75 respondents. At that subset we can make estimations based on the data, but in these cases the data is more qualitative than quantitative.
Additional factors can create error, such as question wording and question order.
About Zogby Analytics:
Zogby Analytics is respected nationally and internationally for its opinion research capabilities. Since 1984, Zogby has empowered clients with powerful information and knowledge critical for making informed strategic decisions.
The firm conducts multi-phased opinion research engagements for banking and financial services institutions, insurance companies, hospitals and medical centers, retailers and developers, religious institutions, cultural organizations, colleges and universities, IT companies and Federal agencies. Zogby's dedication and commitment to excellence and accuracy are reflected in its state-of-the-art opinion research capabilities and objective analysis and consultation.