President Joe Biden’s approval rating has declined to the lowest level of his presidency — 40% — as strong majorities of all voters disapprove of his handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll.
What’s more, the poll finds Biden behind former President Donald Trump for the first time in a hypothetical general-election matchup, although the deficit is well within the poll’s margin of error for a contest that’s still more than 11 months away.
The erosion for Biden is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza, and among voters ages 18 to 34, with a whopping 70% of them disapproving of Biden’s handling of the war.
“I do not support his support of Israel,” said Meg Furey, 40, a Democrat from Austin, Texas.
“Failed promises, student loans, foreign policy in general,” said Democrat Zico Schell, 23, of San Diego, when asked why he disapproves of Biden’s job performance.
“Joe Biden is at a uniquely low point in his presidency, and a significant part of this, especially within the Biden coalition, is due to how Americans are viewing his foreign policy actions,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.
McInturff said he can’t recall another time when foreign affairs not involving U.S. troops transformed the American political landscape.
“This poll is a stunner, and it’s stunning because of the impact the Israel-Hamas war is having on Biden,” he said.
But Horwitt cautioned that Biden can bring these disaffected Democrats and younger voters back into the fold. “These are people who have a proven track record in voting for Biden and Democrats,” he said.
And, he added, there’s plenty of time — and more potential political surprises to come — between now and Election Day 2024, which could see the political landscape transform again.
“Jury verdicts in Trump’s trials, unforeseen events both foreign and domestic, and the rigors of a campaign all have a funny way of upending what may be true today,” Horwitt said.
According to the poll, 40% of registered voters approve of Biden’s job performance, while 57% disapprove, representing Biden’s all-time low in approval (and all-time high in disapproval) in the poll since becoming president.
It’s only a slight overall change from September, when Biden’s approval rating was at 41% — which was then tied with his previous low in the poll.
Yet what stands out in the new survey is the shift among voters ages 18 to 34. In September, 46% of these voters said they approved of Biden’s job performance.
Now? Biden’s approval rating dropped to 31% among these voters.
Sixty-two percent now disapprove of Biden’s handling of foreign policy
In another low for the president, just 33% of all voters approve of Biden’s handling of foreign policy, which is down 8 points from September.
That compares with 62% of voters, including 30% of Democrats, who say they disapprove of the president’s handling of foreign policy.
And only 34% of all voters approve of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, versus 56% who say they disapprove.
By party, only half of Democratic voters (51%) say they approve of Biden’s handling of the war, compared with majorities of independents (59%) and Republicans (69%) who say they disapprove.
On the economy, fewer than 4 in 10 voters — 38% — say they approve of the president’s handling of the issue, which is up 1 point from September.
Democrats are divided over the Israel-Hamas war
The NBC News poll — conducted Nov. 10-14 — comes more than a month after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,000 Israelis, and the subsequent war in Gaza, which has killed thousands more Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.
The poll finds a plurality of American voters, 47%, believing that Israel is defending its interests in the war, and that its military actions in Gaza are justified.
By comparison, 30% think that Israel’s military actions have gone too far and are not justified. Another 21% say they don’t know enough to have an opinion.
Yet among Democratic voters, 51% believe Israel has gone too far, versus 27% who say Israel’s military actions are justified.
And while a majority of all voters (55%) support the United States providing military aid to Israel, almost half of Democrats (49%) say they oppose this aid.
Trump narrowly leads Biden for first time
All of this is shaping a general election that’s still some 350 days away. Biden trails Donald Trump for the first time in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in the NBC News poll, though the deficit falls well within the survey’s margin of error.
Trump gets support from 46% of registered voters, while Biden gets 44%.
In September, the two men were tied (at 46% each). And in June, Biden was narrowly ahead of Trump by 4 points (49% to 45%). While Biden’s support has changed throughout the year, albeit within the poll’s margin of error, Trump’s has barely budged.
In the current poll, Biden holds advantages over Trump among Black voters (69% to 20%), women (52% to 39%) and white voters with college degrees (51% to 40%).
Trump, meanwhile, holds the edge among white voters (53% to 39%), men (55% to 35%) and rural voters (58% to 35%).
And notably, Trump holds a slight advantage within the margin of error in the survey among voters ages 18 to 34 (46% to 42%) — a reversal from past election results and past NBC News polls. But the finding is consistent with other recent national surveys showing Trump more competitive among younger voters than he was previously, and it’s consistent with Biden’s overall struggles with this age group.
Trump leads GOP presidential race by 40 points
Additionally, the NBC News poll shows Trump maintaining a significant national lead over his rivals in the Republican contest for president.
Trump is the first choice of 58% of GOP primary voters, followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 18% and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley at 13%, with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy tied at 3% behind them.
Trump’s lead is essentially unchanged from September, when he was ahead of DeSantis by 43 points, despite other GOP candidates ending their campaigns.
Haley’s support, however, has almost doubled from September (7%) to now (13%).
In a separate question, 50% of Republican primary voters say that Trump should continue to lead the Republican Party — down from 58% who said this in September.
By contrast, 23% say Trump was a good president, but it’s time to consider other leaders (up from 19% who said this two months ago). And another 23% say the Republican Party needs a new leader with better behavior and a different approach (up from 22% who said this in September).
Biden holds giant lead over Democratic field
Meanwhile, despite lower approval ratings from members of his own party, Biden gets support from a whopping 77% of national Democratic primary voters in the first NBC News poll to test the party’s 2024 presidential primary.
He’s followed by Marianne Williamson, who gets 12% support, and Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who gets 4%.
Other poll findings
Looking ahead to the 2024 congressional elections, 47% of registered voters say they prefer a Republican-controlled Congress, versus 45% who want Democrats in charge. Back in September’s poll, voters split 46% Democratic, 45% Republican on this question.
Hanging over all of the results in the poll: a sense of pessimism about the direction of the nation. Just 19% said they feel confident that life for their children’s generation will be better than it has been for them — an all-time low result on this poll question dating back to 1990.
The NBC News poll was conducted Nov. 10-14 and surveyed 1,000 registered voters — 833 by cellphone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The margin of error for the 317 Republican primary voters is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points, and the margin of error for the 311 Democratic primary voters is plus or minus 5.6 percentage points.