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Biden approval sinks to record low in NPR poll taken before Russia invaded Ukraine

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Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A majority of Americans believe President Joe Biden's first year in office was a "failure," according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Support for the president has dropped to the lowest level recorded by the survey, with Biden holding just a 39% overall approval rating with U.S. adults. His overall approval rating is slightly better with registered voters, though still at a dismal 40%. The president's overall disapproval rating is at 55% with both groups.

A 56% majority of both U.S. adults and registered voters rate the president's first year in office as a failure, the survey found. Only 39% said it was a success.

These crushing poll numbers come as Americans are expressing widespread dissatisfaction with how Biden is performing on the economy, the pandemic, and with foreign policy. Most survey respondents, 54%, said Biden is not fulfilling his campaign promises, and 52% said he has done more to divide the country than unite it, even though uniting the country was a central theme of Biden's 2020 campaign for the White House.

On the issues, Biden receives just 36% approval for his handling of the economy and 47% for his handling of the pandemic. A plurality of 37% of registered voters say inflation should be the top priority for Biden right now, as consumer prices have increased at the largest rate in 40 years over the past year.

Other important issues rank far behind inflation, with the pandemic being the top concern for 12% of registered voters, voting laws for another 12%, and foreign policy and violent crime each for 10%.

Foreign policy is a rising concern for Americans with the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Importantly, this poll was conducted between Feb. 15 and Feb. 21, before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. When this poll was taken, 50% of U.S. adults said they disapproved of how Biden was handling the situation, while only 34% approved.

A pitiful 30% of respondents said they think the U.S. is headed in the right direction.

"These are sort of rock-bottom numbers," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, in a statement. "It's about as low as you're going to see him."

NPR identified three key groups that Biden is struggling with that explain his disastrous poll numbers: Independents, suburban voters, and the Democratic base.

Only 29% of self-identified independents approve of Biden's job performance. An astonishing 64% of independents disapprove of Biden, more than double the percentage that approve. It's a far-cry from the support Biden held in 2020, when he won the presidency with majority support from independents.

As for suburban voters, just 38% approve of the president, a decrease of 11 percentage points from December. Biden has seen a double-digit decrease in support from suburban women over the past two months alone, down to 45% from 57%.

The president is also suffering from a lack of intense support from Democrats. Only 14% of U.S. adults strongly approve of Biden's performance, a worse rating than President Donald Trump had at any time during his presidency, according to NPR.

Credit Biden's souring approval with his supporters to the 50-50 U.S. Senate. Major initiatives like the Build Back Better social spending package and a federal overhaul of U.S. elections have been stymied by lack of support in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster.

The only major pieces of legislation advanced under Biden's tenure have been a coronavirus relief package, called the American Rescue Plan, and a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Those achievements are decidedly not enough to make up for Biden's failure to "shut down" the coronavirus pandemic, the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and ongoing supply chain issues and rising prices.

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