Washington

State of the Union Brings No Approval Bump for Biden

44% approve of Biden’s job performance and 39% believe he’s keeping his promises — unchanged from a pre-speech survey

Image of President Joe Biden delivering the State of the Union Address
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to Congress at the Capitol on Feb. 7. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden received a spate of positive headlines after his second State of the Union address, but the high-profile moment didn’t leave much of an impression on voters, according to new Morning Consult survey data.

political intelligence
Promises Kept? Voters Are No More Likely to See Biden Delivering After Second State of the Union

Shares of voters who said President Joe Biden has been keeping the promises he made during the 2020 campaign

Surveys conducted in 2022 and 2023 among representative samples of roughly 2,000 registered voters each, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Sentiment on Biden unchanged post-State of the Union

  • After remarks focused on touting his achievements and urging lawmakers to help “finish the job” with his agenda, 39% of registered voters said Biden “has been keeping his promises” while in office, unchanged from a survey conducted before his Feb. 7 speech. Just under half of voters (46%) said he has not kept his promises.
  • The latest survey, conducted Feb. 10-12, found 44% of voters approve of Biden’s job performance, which is also unchanged from the preceding Feb. 4-5 survey. Most voters (54%) disapprove of his work in office.
  • On the issues, roughly half of voters (49%) approve of his handling of protecting Medicare and Social Security, a key focus of his speech amid the debt limit fight, while more voters than not disapprove of how he’s dealing with national security (47%) and foreign policy (48%) amid the fallout from the Chinese surveillance balloon incursion. All of those figures are in line with the previous week’s survey findings.

How Biden’s case broke through to voters

The lack of a bump after the speech this year stands in contrast to the modest improvement Biden saw after last year’s address to Congress, which drew a larger audience than the 27.3 million people estimated by Nielsen to have tuned in on television last week.

Still, roughly 2 in 5 voters (38%) said they had seen, read or heard “a lot” about this year’s speech — higher than the 29% who said the same in March — and the kind of information the electorate took away about the president saw a slight improvement. In the latest survey, 34% said they had recently heard something positive about Biden, up from 29% the previous week, though voters are still more likely to report hearing something negative than positive about the president.

Despite that, Biden’s popularity has been generally stable since a summertime improvement ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, during which Democrats overperformed expectations despite the electorate’s disapproving views about the commander in chief. 

That raises questions about how much voters’ impressions about Biden himself will matter for the Democratic Party in 2024. Democrats were able to leverage negative sentiment about Donald Trump and the Republican Party to great effect in November, coming close to maintaining their House majority and prying a Senate seat from the GOP’s grip. 

A Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted after the latest State of the Union underlines the case: Comparing Biden’s speech with Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ response on behalf of the Republicans, voters were more likely to associate the president’s presentation with positive terms.

Voters Who Tuned In Saw Biden’s Speech as More Positive, Nonpartisan Than GOP Response

Share of voters who said the following terms well-described President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address and Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Republican response

Survey conducted Feb. 10-12, 2023, among 602 registered voters who said they watched at least part of Biden’s and Sanders’ speeches, with an unweighted margin of error of +/- 4%.

What voters thought about Biden’s speech and the GOP response

  • Voters who watched the State of the Union address and the Republican response were more likely to cast Biden’s speech as positive, nonpartisan and unifying.
  • Those who tuned in for both speeches were more likely to describe Sanders’ talk as negative, partisan and extreme.
  • Still, respondents who watched both politicians were equally likely to say Biden and Sanders’ addresses were excellent or good (54% to 53%), and they also clocked similar poor ratings (29% to 28%).

The latest surveys were conducted Feb. 10-12, 2023, among representative samples of roughly 2,000 registered voters, with unweighted margins of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult