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State of union or mind? Voter concern over Biden cognitive abilities lingers over annual speech

A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that 6 in 10 voters are 'not very or not at all confident in Biden's mental capability to serve effectively as president,' according to a report on the findings

Published: March 6, 2024 11:00pm

Most voters are concerned about President Biden's cognitive ability, with his job approval ratings dropping to 38% and his State of the Union address to the nation around the corner on Thursday evening.

A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that 6 in 10 voters are "not very or not at all confident in Biden's mental capability to serve effectively as president," according to a report on the findings.

The AP poll results come after the release of a recent Gallup poll that showed Biden's approval rating has dipped to 38%.

According to Gallup's report about the results of the survey, the president's approval rating "has not risen above 44% since August 2021, and his 39.8% average rating for his third year in office was the second worst among post-World War II presidents elected to their first term."

Biden would be 86 at the end of a second term.

The White House said his latest exam did not include a cognitive test, which prompted celebrity psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw to call for him to take such a test. “People that have nothing to hide, hide nothing,” McGraw said. 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Feb. 28 that Biden doesn't need a cognitive test and that his physicians didn't recommend he take one.

Some lawmakers, such as former White House doctor Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, have also said Biden, 81, should take a cognitive exam.

In 2022, Jackson and other House Republicans wrote to the White House physician, Kevin O’Connor, urging him to administer a cognitive test since Biden hadn't taken one.

"This is not a political issue, it’s common sense. If Joe Biden is confident in his ability to excel at a cognitive test the way President Trump did, he can easily put his fellow Democrats’ fears to rest with this one simple test," Jackson said.

In 2023, Jackson and a group of House Republicans again called for Biden to take a cognitive test in a letter to Biden and the White House physician. The signers of the letter said Biden should drop out of the 2024 presidential race if he refuses to take a cognitive test.

"This is not a political issue, even Democrats are losing faith in the man they put in the White House. Americans want a mentally fit leader and reassurance that the man they elected is a cognitively sound Commander in Chief," Jackson said in a statement about the letter he and other Republican lawmakers wrote. "I administered a cognitive test to President Donald J. Trump, and it’s time that President Biden is held to the same standard. The American people deserve answers. If Biden can’t step up to the plate and take a cognitive test, then he shouldn’t run for President again."

Former President Trump voluntarily took a cognitive test in 2018 when Jackson was still the White House physician, according to Reuters. 

Some lawmakers, such as Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., have said the U.S. government should require presidents and top political leaders to take cognitive tests.

“At some point, and statistically it’s in the 80s, you begin a more rapid decline,” Cassidy said in 2021. “So anybody who’s in a position of responsibility who may potentially be on that slope, that is of concern, and I’m saying this as a doctor.”

The findings of a ABC News/Ipsos poll published on Feb. 11 found that a majority of voters think Biden is too old for a second term.

The findings of another poll published March 2 showed that 73% of voters think Biden is "too old to be an effective president."

Special counsel Robert Hur's report on Biden's classified documents case described the president as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

Biden responded to age concerns after the release of the special counsel report.

“I'm well-meaning and I'm an elderly man and I know what the hell I'm doing. I've been president, I put this country back on its feet. I don't need his recommendation,” Biden said. "My memory's fine."

Biden will now have a chance to address the issue before the nation during his prime-time address on Thursday. 

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