7 mins read

Immigration Leads Reasons Biden’s Detractors Disapprove

Story Highlights

  • About half of adults who disapprove of Joe Biden cite specific issues
  • Immigration is top issue mentioned, followed by economy and inflation
  • Reasons for liking him are fuzzier, the economy being the top specific one

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As President Joe Biden starts his reelection year with more Americans disapproving than approving of how he is handling his job, Gallup finds his detractors mainly focused on issues when explaining their view, with immigration the single most often-mentioned factor. Meanwhile, those who approve largely offer general, positive statements about his performance, such as, “he’s doing a good job.”

These findings are based on a follow-up question to Gallup’s presidential approval question in a Jan. 2-22 poll, in which respondents were asked to explain, in their own words, why they approve or disapprove of Biden’s job performance. In that survey, 41% of Americans approved — a record low for an incumbent president at this stage of his presidency — while 54% disapproved.

The poll was conducted before the special counsel released its report last week concluding its investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents found at his home in 2022. Although the special counsel decided not to bring charges against Biden over the matter, the report’s description of him as someone with diminished mental capacity could negatively influence the way people evaluate Biden going forward.

Disapprovers Cite Immigration, Economy

Specific issue-related concerns account for the largest share of Biden critics’ explanations for disapproving of his job performance. Immigration is the most top of mind, at 19%. The next highest is his handling of the economy (9%), followed by inflation (5%). Four percent cite his handling of foreign affairs, generally, as the main reason they disapprove of the job he’s doing, while 3% cite his handling of the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians, specifically.

Nearly one in four Biden detractors mention a personal trait, with 5% saying he’s “incompetent,” 4% saying he’s in poor health or mentally unfit, and 4% saying he’s too old. Some of the other knocks on the president are that he’s “out of touch,” a “puppet,” wishy-washy or corrupt.

Broad statements about Biden’s general job performance are given by 18% as reasons they disapprove, with most of these offering that they “disagree with what he’s doing” or that he’s “doing a bad job.”


Most respondents who disapprove of the job Biden is doing are either Republicans or political independents. The two groups’ stated reasons for why they disapprove are similar, except that Republicans are more likely than independents to cite immigration policy (26% vs. 14%, respectively). At the same time, independent disapprovers appear a bit more focused on the economy and inflation (18% mention either of these) than Republican disapprovers (11%).

‘Better Than Trump’ Fuels Some of Biden’s Approval

About half of Americans who approve of Biden’s job performance praise him for his overall handling of the job, including 22% who say he is doing a good job or doing the best he can under difficult circumstances. Half as many, 11%, say Biden is “better than Trump,” and another 11% say they agree with his policies or actions as president, generally. Much smaller percentages in this general category say he works or cares for people (2%), does what’s best for America (1%) or is taking on many issues (1%).

A quarter of Biden’s backers connect their approval of his performance to specific issues. This is led by the economy, at 9%, and the jobs situation, at 4%. Three percent each cite Biden’s actions on immigration and education, while smaller shares cite infrastructure renewal, his foreign policy in general, and his Ukraine policy, specifically.

The smallest category of reasons people give for approving of Biden involves his personal style or characteristics, the most common being that he is stable, calm, measured or respectful (6%). Another 2% say he is honest or has integrity, while 2% say he is intelligent and 1% cite a lack of drama or controversy surrounding him.


Biden backers are largely composed of Democrats and political independents. The two groups’ stated reasons for why they approve are similar, except that Democrats are more likely than independents to cite Biden’s policies or the improving economy as the reason for their view.

Giving Vague Reasons for Approving Presidential Performance Not Unusual

Gallup asked the same follow-up to its job approval question for George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump during their presidencies. While these were all conducted during the first year each was in office, the results offer some useful points of comparison with Biden.

The 51% of Biden’s supporters offering generic accolades like “doing a good job” when asked why they approve is on par with the percentage citing such reasons for Trump in July 2017 (52%) and Bush in June/July 2001 but is much lower than for Obama in July 2009. These vague reasons may reflect the large extent to which those approving of each president are mainly members of his own party and don’t need specific reasons to be supportive.

Still, Americans are more likely to cite specific policy reasons for their approval of Biden than they were for his three predecessors, which likely reflects the longer time he’s had in office to implement policies. At the same time, Biden is the least likely of the four presidents to be praised for his personal traits or style, with the 11% citing these about him contrasting with 24% for Trump, 19% for Bush and 16% for Obama.


Biden and Obama Dinged on Issues, Trump on Style

Policy issue differences account for a larger share of the reasons people disapprove of Biden (47%) than they did for Trump (11%) or Bush (32%) but are less prominent than for Obama (58%) — again, likely influenced by the later timing of Biden’s survey than those of his predecessors.

At the same time, the 23% raising concerns about Biden’s personal traits is similar to the figures for Obama (24%) and Bush (17%), while far less than for Trump (65%). Bush disapprovers were the most likely to have general qualms, saying they disagreed with what he was doing or that he was “too conservative,” among other things (42%).


Bottom Line

Gallup’s recent polling probing the reasons why Americans disapprove of Biden’s job performance finds disagreement with his handling of issues leading the list, with various specific policies mentioned by close to half of his critics. His competence, mental fitness and age were far less top of mind, mentioned by 13%.

To stay up to date with the latest Gallup News insights and updates, follow us on X.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.