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President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn to board Marine One at the White House on July 20, 2022.
President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn to board Marine One at the White House on July 20, 2022.Ting Shen / Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images file

Mixed midterm election results for Biden, Dems in yet another poll

While Democrats lead on the generic congressional ballot, that's sometimes an imperfect measurement of the midterm environment.


Another day, another poll showing mixed midterm results for President Joe Biden and Democrats with approximately 100 days to go until the midterms.

In the latest national USA Today/Suffolk poll, Biden’s approval rating stands at 39% among registered voters (with 56% disapproving), while a whopping 75% believe the country is headed in the wrong direction — traditionally rough numbers for the party controlling the White House. 

But as we’ve seen in other surveys, Democrats are leading on the poll’s generic ballot by 4 points, 44%-40% -- up from a 40%-40% tie a month ago.

Those numbers underscore an important trend: Democrats, so far, are outperforming Biden. Another recent example of this was Wednesday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, which showed Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., leading GOP challenger Herschel Walker by 3 points (46%-43%), but also with Biden’s job rating in the state at just 36%. 

Yet an important reminder about the generic ballot: It has sometimes been an imperfect measurement of the midterm environment. 

For one thing, it shows a national matchup when the races for Senate, House and gubernatorial control are determined state by state and congressional district by congressional district. 

In addition, generic ballots — including in our own NBC News poll — have often overstated Democratic performance. Historically, Democrats have performed extremely well in cycles when they enjoy a double-digit advantage (or close to it) on the generic ballot. But midterm outcomes are much less clear in cycles where they have a slight lead or slight deficit. 

And some political observers believe that, for the party controlling the White House, candidates’ poll numbers eventually start aligning more with a president’s, especially when polls start measuring likely voters instead of registered voters. (Importantly in this USA Today/Suffolk poll, Democrats lead on the generic ballot 44%-40%, but that leaves 16% undecided or not for either party.)

So the generic ballot continues to look up for Democrats in many polls. But will that last?