Fox News Poll: State of the Union is dysfunction, dissatisfaction and disapproval
On classified documents, more think Trump did something illegal than Biden, Pence
Days before President Biden’s State of the Union speech, a Fox News poll asked voters to assess if the country is coming together. The short answer is no, as 81% see the U.S. as a dysfunctional family that’s breaking apart, up from 71% two years ago. That sentiment hits 86% among Republicans and independents, and 74% among Democrats. Overall, only 16% describe the country as a tight-knit family emerging from challenging times.
The survey also reveals sizable majorities rate economic conditions negatively (80%) and generally feel unhappy with how things are going in the country (73%). That’s the second-highest dissatisfaction rating on a Fox survey in 10 years, only behind 75% in August 2022.
Compared to early in the president’s term (April 2021), negative views of the economy have increased 11 points and dissatisfaction with how things are going has increased by 20 points. What’s worse for Biden, that 20-point increase comes mainly from a 35-point rise in discontent among Democrats.
There’s more. Five times as many voters say they are falling behind financially as getting ahead, and only one in 10 thinks inflation is under control. In fact, three-quarters expect a recession this year, including majorities of Democrats (65%), independents (72%) and Republicans (83%).
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Overall, nearly nine in 10 are extremely or very concerned about inflation (86%). Large numbers also worry about crime rates (80%), political divisions in the country (78%) and U.S. opioid addiction (76%), and sizable majorities are concerned about the U.S. debt limit (68%), Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (68%), gun laws (66%), border security (65%) and immigration (63%).
Inflation is the only concern that ranks in the top three for both Democrats and Republicans.
Against that dismal backdrop, the survey finds voters lack faith in their leaders.
Under half have a great deal or some confidence in Biden (45%), Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (44%), U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (40%), House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (39%), Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell (39%) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (38%). For comparison, former President Donald Trump’s confidence number (44%) roughly matches Biden’s.
When the president gives his speech Tuesday before a joint session of Congress, he’ll have the highest approval rating in the room: 45% of voters approve of Biden’s performance and 54% disapprove. That’s unchanged since December (44%-56%) and October (46%-53%).
"Neither good nor bad news over the past year has affected Biden’s numbers," says Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who conducts the Fox survey with Republican Daron Shaw. "His 45% approval is certainly not good by historical standards, but maybe it’s not bad in this hyper-partisan era -— maybe it is more durable than stuck."
Although not by a lot, Biden’s number tops approval of Vice President Kamala Harris (39%), the Supreme Court (41%) and Congressional Democrats (42%) and Republicans (38%).
Among Democrats, approval stands at 88% for Biden, 77% for Harris and 82% for Congressional Democrats. Only 65% of Republicans approve of GOP lawmakers.
Biden starts his third year in office with fewer than half of voters approving of how he’s handling inflation (31% approve-66% disapprove), immigration and border security (both 35%-61%), the economy (37%-61%), and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (45%-51%).
Despite those lackluster ratings, his approval has been inching up on the economy and holding steady on border security — and those represent record highs on Russia/Ukraine and inflation.
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Large minorities think Biden "cares about people like me" (44%) and is honest and trustworthy (42%), and about one-third say he’s a strong leader (35%).
While his trait ratings are unchanged over the last year, they are down significantly compared to before he won the presidency. Since October 2020, Biden’s empathy number is down 12 points, honesty is down 10 points and strong leader is down 14 points.
At the same time, Biden’s job performance and honesty ratings remain mostly unchanged since the finding of classified documents in his home and office space.
That’s because while Trump, Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence are each in the hot seat for mishandling classified documents, voters see significant differences in their situations.
Just over half, 51%, think Trump did something illegal, while 37% think Biden did something illegal and 22% say the same of Pence.
More Republicans think Trump (23%) and Pence (17%) did something illegal in mishandling the documents than Democrats think Biden did (10%).
About seven in 10 think it’s very or somewhat important for Congress to investigate Biden’s (70%) and Trump’s (67%) treatment of classified materials, while fewer than six in 10 feel that way about Pence’s (56%).
Another seven in 10 say it’s important there is a congressional investigation into federal agencies potentially being biased against conservatives (71%), the origins of COVID-19 (70%) and the U.S.' withdrawal from Afghanistan (68%), with six in 10 saying Congress should investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings (61%).
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Conducted Jan. 27-30, under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R), this Fox News Poll included interviews with 1,003 registered voters nationwide who were randomly selected from a voter file and spoke with live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones. The total sample has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
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Fox News’ Victoria Balara contributed to this report.