Biden Border Approval Reaches New Low in Latest Polling

But congressional Republicans are struggling to make their case to the American people

By Andrew R. Arthur on June 1, 2023

The latest Fox News post-Title 42 polling is out, and it contains bad news for the president: Approval of his border policies has reached a new low. That said, the poll also shows congressional Republicans are struggling to make their border-security case to the American people and are thus at risk of blowing one of their best arguments against a second Biden term.

Fieldwork for that poll involving 1,001 registered voters between May 19 and 22 was conducted by Braun Research under the joint direction of Beacon Research, a Democratic opinion outfit, and Shaw & Company Research, a Republican one. The margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

Biden Overall Approval. Some 42 percent of respondents approved of the president’s overall performance (15 percent “strongly” approving) while 58 percent disapproved (41 percent strongly). That’s bad news for Biden, who had “enjoyed” 44 percent approval (vs. 55 percent disapproval) in the same poll just one month earlier.

In fact, Biden’s just two percentage points above his lowest approval rating (40 percent) in the same poll conducted in mid-July 2022. That said, in some ways the latest results are worse for the president, because in that July poll, 16 percent of respondents strongly approved of the job he was doing, while the same percentage as in the latest poll — 41 percent — strongly disapproved of his performance.

Not surprisingly, Biden receives some of his worst grades for his handling of border security, receiving just 33 percent approval for his performance on this subject compared to 63 percent of respondents who disapproved.

Biden Border Approval Tanks. Not surprisingly, Biden receives some of his worst grades for his handling of border security, receiving just 33 percent approval for his performance on this subject compared to 63 percent of respondents who disapproved.

These numbers are worse than they appear, because 33 percent is the lowest approval President Biden has ever received on border security, and conversely his 63 percent disapproval rating also marks a new “high” for the incumbent. It also a six-point shift from Fox News polling on the subject in March, when 36 percent of voters approved of the job Biden was doing at the border and 60 percent disapproved.

And to make things worse for the president in this area, voters are taking a slightly dimmer view of what’s happening at the border of late. More than half — 51 percent — of respondents said things are worse at the border than they were two years ago, while just 11 percent think they are better (37 percent believe they are the same — but of course Biden was president then, too).

When asked the same question early in the Biden administration in April 2021, 15 percent of respondents stated that things were better at the border than they had been two years prior, and “just” 46 percent thought they were worse (with 33 percent deeming them the same).

The only subject on which the president receives a lower approval rating — and then just barely — is his handling of the economy. Again, just 33 percent of respondents approve of his handling of that subject, but a whopping 65 percent of respondents disapprove of Biden’s economic performance.

The Bad News for the GOP. The good news for the president’s Republican opposition is that the border has been and remains a key Biden vulnerability. The bad news is that they are not taking full advantage of Biden’s weaknesses in this area.

One of their key arguments has been that the president’s to blame for the sad state of border security, and on that point, 72 percent of voters agree that Biden’s policies are contributing to the increase in migrants to the United States — with 45 percent opining that they are contributing “a great deal”, and 27 percent that they are playing “some” role.

So, what’s the bad news for the GOP?

The Biden administration contends that so-called “push factors” in migrants’ home countries — both political and economic — are the biggest reason many of them are coming to the country now, and on that score, 87 percent of voters agree, with 58 percent asserting that such factors are contributing “a great deal” to the current surge and 29 percent stating that they play “some” role.

Violence, poverty, crime, and corruption are endemic factors in most so-called “sending” countries and were issues even when illegal migration rates were comparably low. Republicans have made similar arguments, but they don’t seem to be making much impact.

Of course, there are as many individual reasons migrants enter the United States illegally as there are migrants, and both push factors and so-called “pull” factors — like the president’s lax border policies — play some role.

For Republicans to take full advantage of the president’s perceived weakness at the border, they will have to better demonstrate that Biden’s policies are driving the migrant train. Thus far, as this poll reveals, they are landing some blows, but could be doing a better job.

The End of Title 42. The end of Title 42 on May 11 certainly gave Republicans an opportunity to make their collective case.

The Fox News poll reveals that 71 percent of voters had “heard about the Biden administration’s decision to end border restrictions enacted during the pandemic, known as Title 42, that enabled the U.S. to block migrants from entering the country based on public health concerns”, with 32 percent of them having heard “a great deal” about it while 39 percent had heard “some”.

Biden first announced that he would be ending Title 42 at the beginning of April 2022, and in a similar poll conducted that month, 29 percent of respondents had heard a great deal about the president’s then-decision, with 32 percent having received some news about it. Thus, the actual end of Title 42 received more coverage than the president’s initial proposal to end it.

Interestingly, 63 percent of respondents in that earlier poll were interested in keeping Title 42 in place while a mere 27 percent wanted to end the policy. In the most recent polling, in contrast, 61 percent of voters would have opted to keep Title 42, while 35 percent preferred to end it.

That rather significant difference likely reflects Americans’ weariness with Covid-19 restrictions overall, but the GOP could have made a better case for why maintaining Title 42 was critical to border security, regardless of the policy’s health impacts.

Voters’ Concerns. Overall, voters are extremely concerned about border security, but it’s not exactly at the top of their list of issues.

Of the respondents polled, 64 percent stated that they were concerned about border security, with 35 percent describing themselves as “extremely” concerned and an additional 29 percent as “very” concerned. That roughly ties with “being able to pay your bills” (also the concern of 64 percent of respondents), the ultimate “pocketbook” issue.

That said, 71 percent of voters stated that they were concerned about “Iran getting a nuclear bomb”, 79 percent about political divisions, and 88 percent about the future of the country generally.

Note that the internals in that poll reveal an interesting development: In the same poll conducted in March, 69 percent of respondents stated that they were concerned about border security, but only 34 percent were then “extremely concerned” while 35 percent stated that they were very concerned.

Thus, while overall concerns about border security have abated somewhat in the past two months, slightly more voters now have heightened concerns about it.

If congressional Republicans and the ever-widening field of GOP presidential candidates want to make immigration and the border winning issues in the 2024 elections, they will have to do a better job of explaining to voters why they should be concerned about the economic, fiscal, and social ramifications of millions of new migrants pouring into this country illegally.

The Democratic mayors of major cities like New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and others are certainly helping them make their case when those civic leaders complain about their migrant “crises”, but GOP leaders would likely be served with a little less schadenfreude given those cities’ sanctuary policies, and significantly greater concern about the impacts of such mass migration on local citizens.

Another mistake I believe congressional GOP leaders make is assuming that voters outside of the Beltway are as aware of how bad things are at the border as they are. As this poll suggests, many aren’t, and it’s in the interests of Republican leadership to inform them. There’s a reason why the White House press shop gets away with so many of its blatant misstatements about illegal entries.

The bad news for the president in the most recent polling is that voters’ support for his immigration and border policies — which was never strong to begin with — is falling even further. The good news for Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats is that Republicans are struggling to take advantage of the president’s poor border performance.