State of the Union: Biden somewhat exceeded expectations, but approval ratings unchanged

New ABC News/Ipsos poll finds Americans are split on who would do a better job, if anyone, as president

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Johnny Sawyer Senior Research Manager, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, March 10, 2024 -- Roughly three in ten Americans say President Joe Biden outperformed their expectations at Thursday’s State of the Union address, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll. Slightly more say he did better than expected when compared to the number who say he was in line with their expectations. However, more than one in three Americans – including nearly half of Americans under age 30 – did not read, see, or hear about the address.

While the president exceeded expectations for some, his approval rating on key issues remains unchanged, as the majority disapprove of his handling of the economy, crime, and the Israel/Hamas war, among others. Looking back at former President Donald Trump’s tenure, his approval ratings on many of the same issues are slightly better than Biden. Yet, neither man holds an edge on the question of who the public would trust to do a better job as president.

Detailed Findings:

1. For some State of the Union viewers, mainly people over age 65 and Democrats, Biden performed better than they expected. However, many did not tune in to the speech.

  • Overall, 29% say Biden performed better than expected, compared to 12% who said he performed worse. One in four (24%) say his performance matched their expectations, while 35% did not see, hear, or read about the address. 
  • Biden’s performance seemed to boost some of his core supporters, above all else. Fifty-two percent of Democrats say the president outperformed expectations.
  • In addition, 45% of Americans aged 65+, 37% of those with a college degree, and 39% in the Northeast say he performed better than expected. These percentages are all significantly higher than the number who say he did the same as they expected.
  • On the other hand, 25% of political independents say he did better than expected, 27% the same, and 9% worse. Just 13% of Republicans agree Biden did better than expected.
  • Younger Americans are significantly more likely to say they didn’t tune in at all: 49% of 18-29 year olds and 43% of 30-49 year olds didn’t see, hear, or read about the speech.

2. Despite the positive marks Biden earns from some groups on his performance, that has not yet translated into positive change on his approval ratings.

  • Out of the nine issues asked about in the survey, seven are in line with previous approval ratings last reported in October 2023. Biden’s approval rating has only changed on two issues: abortion (improved) and the war between Israel and Hamas (worsened).
  • At least three in five Americans continue to disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border (68%), inflation (66%), the war between Israel and Hamas (65%), gun violence (62%), crime (61%), and the economy (60%).
  • Biden’s approval ratings on abortion are mixed (47% approve, 50% disapprove), a net positive change of 16 points (from a net -19 approval in October to -3 now). On the other hand, his standing on Israel has worsened from the days immediately following the October 7 attacks (net -35 approval now versus -13 then).

3. Former President Trump is more well-regarded on many of these issues, though most still disapprove of his performance, too.

  • Trump’s approval ratings for his time as president are higher than Biden on four of seven issues both men were rated on: the economy, inflation, immigration and the situation at the U.S. Mexico border, and crime.
  • However, the majority disapprove of Trump’s handling of crime, climate change, gun violence, and abortion. Exactly half also disapprove of his job on inflation and immigration/the border.
  • The key difference between the two is how their respective base rates their job. Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is higher for many issues (ratings range by issue from the mid-70s to 90%) than Biden’s among Democrats on the same issues (from 59% to mid-70s).

4. Despite the approval rating gap between the two, neither Biden nor Trump has an edge on who would do a better job as president. The public are split evenly in thirds between Biden, Trump, and neither.

  • Thirty six percent trust Trump to do a better job leading the U.S. as president, 33% trust Biden to do a better job, and 30% say neither.

About the Study

This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted March 8 to 9, 2024, by Ipsos using the probability-based KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 536 adults age 18 or older. No respondents were removed from the final data for refusing all of the survey items.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population. KnowledgePanel members receive a per survey incentive, usually the equivalent of $1 (though for some it is $2) in points, that can be redeemed for cash or prizes. A prenotification email for this study was sent prior to field. Panelists receive a unique login to the survey and are only able to complete it one time. No reminder emails were sent for this study.

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.13. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. Sampling error is only one potential source of error. There may be other unmeasured non-sampling error in this or any poll. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, and party identification. The demographic benchmarks came from 2023 Current Population Survey (CPS) from the US Census Bureau. Party ID benchmarks are from recent multi-night ABC News polls. The weighting categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (High School graduate or less, Some College, Bachelor, Masters and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
  • Party ID (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Something else)

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson
Senior Vice President, US
Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2025
[email protected]

Mallory Newall
Vice President, US
Public Affairs
+1 202 374-2613
[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is one of the largest market research and polling companies globally, operating in 90 markets and employing over 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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Access more Ipsos research on this topic here.

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Johnny Sawyer Senior Research Manager, US, Public Affairs