All of this has seemingly restored some confidence among nervous Democratic officials regarding Biden’s handling of the country and his prospects for 2024. Ahead of the election, some high-profile Democrats were openly suggesting it was time to move on in two years. But as the significance of the results became clear, a slew of them pointed out that Biden had won their support in 2024, and even some critics came forward, as The New York Times reported on Monday.
As to whether Democratic voters have had their concerns assuaged? So far, that seems to be another matter.
We have seen relatively few quality national polls in recent weeks. But much of it suggests that the situation is pretty much what it was before the election. Biden’s approval rating is virtually unchanged, with his double-digit disapproval number higher than his approval. And while there may be an uptick in those who think Biden should run again or might win, the data is mixed and inconclusive.
Perhaps the poll most supportive of Biden on this front is from YouGov and The Economist. In August and late October, it showed 38% and 39% of Democrats want Biden to run again, respectively. But in the most recent poll, a week ago, that number had risen to 47%.
Other polls confirm that Biden is no longer at his low point on this measure, but it also suggests that the 2022 election results were not necessarily the reason.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed just 25% of Americans said Biden should run for president again in 2024. That number has hovered around 25% since this summer. It was higher among Democrats — 51% — and that’s up from July’s 40%. But that was little changed from the 47% of Democrats who said Biden is expected to run again in August.
The last poll we will focus on is from NPR, PBS and Marist College. And this one actually suggests that Biden might be in a slightly worse position when it comes to his team’s desires in 2024.
He asked a somewhat different question — not whether Biden should run again, but whether people think the party has a better chance with him or “someone else.” In mid-October, Democrats were split between Biden and the hypothetical alternative, 41-41, and that split is very similar today, 44-46.
But despite the 2022 election results, the poll shows Democratic-leaning independents are actually more optimistic about a candidate not named Biden now. They went from 51-26 in favor of that “someone else” to 71-23. So overall, Democratic-leaning voters fell from 44-36 in favor of “someone else” to 54-38.
We dig crosstabs for all of these numbers, and the margins of error are even greater when you isolate something like “Democrat-leaning independents.” It’s also true that Biden looks better off on those metrics than he once was, and especially compared to the summer.
But we are still faced with a situation where at most half of Democrats want a president from their own party to run again, which is highly unusual. And more voters who will select the party’s candidate for 2024 think someone else would do better, even if that number hasn’t necessarily increased, as the Marist poll suggests.
It’s worth wondering how much people view the election as an affirmation of Biden versus a repudiation of certain elements of the Republican Party. Democrats did as well as they did, after all, not because voters liked Biden, but because those who only “somewhat” disapproved of him still leaned to the blue side — rather remarkably. Maybe Biden deserves credit for not turning himself into a lightning rod that took his party off the table for those voters, or maybe he benefited from a choice election in which the alternative allowed itself to be the problem.
If Biden can lock in nearly half of Democratic voters, he’d still be the overwhelming frontrunner to be the 2024 nominee. And the midterm results could deter would-be usurpers who might think there’s a bounty unity at a time when Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot. But those are still not the kinds of numbers that preclude a contested or competitive primary, nor do they suggest that Democratic voters’ confidence in the 80-year-old president’s performance and electoral courage has suddenly been restored to his levels. from the beginning of 2021.