A new Franklin & Marshall Poll released Thursday found a jaw-dropping 84 percent of Pennsylvania voters think President Joe Biden, once called a “scrappy kid from Scranton,” is too old for a second term. That compared to 47 percent who said the same about Donald Trump.
“Most of those people are Democrats, actually, who say that Biden is too old,” said Berwood Yost, Director of the Franklin & Marshall Poll, to DVJournal. “Republicans say, ‘Yeah, Biden’s too old.’ Democrats are more likely to say they’re both too old.”
The age issue has plagued Biden, who turns 81 next month, all year. A Delaware Valley Journal/Coefficient poll in July found that 48 percent of suburban voters didn’t believe he was mentally or physically fit to face a crisis as president.
Some Pennsylvania Democrats, however, said they believe Trump’s problematic politics will more than make up for doubts about Biden’s abilities.
“It’s an issue – plain and simple,” said T.J. Rooney, a Democratic strategist. “However, Trump still has a stranglehold on the Republican Party. As long as that remains the case, Republicans will continue to lose elections – from the state house to the White House.”
The poll results should still be disturbing for Democrats wanting to keep their “Blue Wall” of Midwestern and blue-collar states intact. Biden leads Trump 44 to 42, despite the latter’s indictment on multiple charges in federal and state courts. It is worth noting that an early October survey from Emerson College Polling gave Trump a nine-point lead over Biden.
Also troublesome for Democrats is that Biden’s favorability rating within their party was at 57 percent. That is well below the 78 percent favorability the president enjoys nationally among Democrats.
Biden’s overall favorability rating is no better. Fifty-eight percent of the surveyed 873 registered voters had a negative opinion. Only 40 percent gave him a favorable rating.
“I think it’s clear that these concerns about the economy are really dragging on the president and how they feel about him,” said Yost. Biden’s current rating is lower than Trump’s and former President Barack Obama’s ratings in Pennsylvania at the same point in their first term. “You look at the numbers, and you just see that there’s not a terrible amount of enthusiasm at this point for his candidacy.”
For comparison, Trump has a similar 58 percent unfavorable rating but a 41 percent favorable – one percent higher than Biden.
The high unfavorable ratings may not stop people from picking Biden or Trump.
“No one’s running against Biden, and then Trump obviously has such a grip on the GOP base that it doesn’t matter what he really does,” Larry Ceisler of Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy told DVJournal. He believes the country is craving for different candidates but is resigned to Biden-Trump II. “People are expressing their hopes for what they wish it could be.”
Trump dominates the Republican field. He scored 55 percent support in the Republican Primary field, with Ron DeSantis far behind at 14 percent. The Florida governor has seen the floor drop since April 2023, when he was only six points behind Trump. In third place was former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley with nine percent.
Head-to-head, those surveyed think Biden was more trustworthy and had better judgment. He also ranked higher on values issues like abortion and gay marriage. Biden led Trump 42-41 percent on who understands ordinary Americans.
Trump scored higher on the economy (49-38) and as commander in chief of the military (47-39).
Democrats like Rooney aren’t publicly sweating Biden’s low number against Trump. “Lots of road for Trump to cover in court before next November.”
Unlike Biden, things for Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro appear to be going all right. The poll found 49 percent believed Shapiro was doing an “excellent” or “good” job as the state’s top elected official. The only Pennsylvania governor to have a higher rating 10 months into his term was Tom Ridge.
Yost saw it as Shapiro’s style of governance. “He’s implemented some policies that are things that Republicans might support. He’s been supportive of school choice. I think he’s a moderate leader that communicates things well.”
Shapiro is unsurprisingly doing well with Democrats, generating 76 percent support. But it was a different story with independents and Republicans. The governor garnered 25 percent approval from the GOP and only 38 percent from independent voters. It was still enough to get him an overall 57 percent favorable rating.
There are still problems for Shapiro and the state legislature. The Franklin & Marshall College Poll revealed 50 percent of respondents felt they are “worse off” compared to 2022, and 35 percent thought they will be financially worse off from last year. And voters were worried about the state of Pennsylvania, with 55 percent saying it was “on the wrong track.”
“I think that’s a blanket issue,” commented Shapiro. “Certainly, the state legislature has had its share of issues. Particularly the House being able to organize itself early in the term. There’s still some spending bills left to finish in the state.”
He added national issues like inflation are likely why people seem pessimistic about their situation.
The poll also found incumbent Democrat Sen. Bob Casey holds a seven-point lead over likely GOP challenger Dave McCormick.
That has Ceisler believing that things will be fine for Democrats in 2024. “I don’t see a scenario where Bob Casey wins reelection and Joe Biden loses the state. [Democrats are] sending a message to Joe Biden, but, at the end of the day, they’re going to vote for him.”