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Biden's silver lining amid poll slide: Time is still on his side

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
President Joe Biden speaks about the evacuation of American citizens, their families, SIV applicants and vulnerable Afghans at the White House on Aug. 20, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks about the evacuation of American citizens, their families, SIV applicants and vulnerable Afghans at the White House on Aug. 20, 2021.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

WASHINGTON — The latest NBC News poll is a rough one for President Biden and his party seven months into his presidency.

Just 25 percent of adults approve of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan; his handling of the coronavirus is down 16 points from April; his handling of the economy is down 5 points; and his party holds just a 1-point advantage in congressional preference — which, historically, has represented a tough political environment for the Democratic Party.

But here’s the good news for Biden: Because much of the erosion in the poll is due to Covid — and not Afghanistan — Biden has time to get more Americans vaccinated, to get past Delta, and to get the country closer to the place he thought it would be this summer.

Independence from the coronavirus.

Check out these numbers in the poll: 37 percent of respondents say the worst is behind us when it comes to the coronavirus, while 42 percent say the worst is yet to come.

That’s a significant reversal from April, when 61 percent of Americans said the worst was behind us, versus 19 percent who said the worst was yet to come.

And on the economy, just 24 percent describe the current state as excellent or good.

“It is the domestic storm, Covid’s Delta wave, that is causing more difficulties at this stage here at home and for President Biden,” said NBC poll co-pollster Jeff Horwitt (D).

Bill McInturff, the GOP half of the poll, agrees: “The best way to understand this poll is to forget Afghanistan.”

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: How Covid goes, so goes the Biden presidency.

And right now, Covid isn’t going so great. But that has the potential to change three to six months from now — just as we begin heading into the 2022 midterms.

Independents sour on Biden

Also, if you want to know where the erosion from Biden is coming from in our poll, it’s coming from independents, who were crucial to his coalition in the 2020 election.

  • Biden’s job rating among independents in April: 61 percent
  • Biden’s job rating among independents now: 46 percent
  • Biden’s Covid handling among independents in April: 81 percent
  • Biden’s Covid handling among independents now: 52 percent
  • Biden’s economic handling among independents in April: 60 percent
  • Biden’s economic handling among independents now: 45 percent
  • Congressional preference among independents in April: D+14
  • Congressional preference among independents now: R+1

In our new poll, the Democrats have remained steadily behind Biden. It’s independents who have moved.

What have you done for me lately?

And here’s something else Biden and the Democrats have to fix: The public isn’t giving them credit for getting things done.

And on the one big Biden accomplishment so far — the Covid relief legislation — just a third of Americans say it’s helping the economy or will help it in the future.

From our poll: 40 percent say Biden has accomplished either a great deal or a fair amount as president, while 58 percent disagree.

And 35 percent of Americans say that the Covid relief legislation that was passed in March is helping to improve the economy or will do so in the future, versus 38 percent who believe it won’t help or will hurt the economy; 27 percent have no opinion or are unsure.

So as the House returns this week to begin advancing a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, these poll numbers drive home the message that Democrats need some points on the board.


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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

Approximately 10,400: The number of people the Biden White House says U.S. military evacuated from Kabul (plus another about 5,900 evacuated by coalition flights) on Sunday.

21: The number of people who have died in Tennessee after devastating flooding there.

37,798,864: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 315,638 since Friday morning.)

632,038: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,155 since Friday morning).

362,657,771: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 3,034,391 since Friday morning.)

51.5 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

62 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

President Biden says the U.S. may have to extend its Afghanistan withdrawal deadline depending on how evacuations go.

A new cable obtained by NBC News shows that local staff members at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are “deeply disheartened” by U.S. evacuation efforts and have expressed a sense of betrayal and distrust in the U.S. government.

Nine moderate Democrats make their pitch in the Washington Post for passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill before handling reconciliation, as House Democrats return to work on the Democrat-led reconciliation plan.

Former President Donald Trump was booed at a rally Saturday in Alabama after he told supporters they should get vaccinated.

The Texas House could pass voting restrictions within days after Democrats' efforts to stave off the Republican-backed changes fell apart last week.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and his wife, Jacqueline, are hospitalized with Covid, but their family says they’re responding positively to treatment.