Did State of the Union change how voters see Biden?

  • By Brandon Drenon
  • BBC News

President Joe Biden gave a vigorous State of the Union address on Thursday, working to counter a narrative haunting his re-election bid – that he’s too old for the job.

US political pundits and analysts called his roughly 60-minute speech “fiery” and “forceful”.

Mr Biden, 81, is the oldest president to hold office, and opinion polls often show his age is on the minds of American voters.

We asked members of our US voter panel, many of who had supported Biden but expressed concerns about his age, if his speech had affected how they see him.

Image source, Aylon Gipson

Aylon Gipson, Alabama, Democrat

A 21-year-old economics student at Morehouse College, an historically black university, Aylon voted for the first time in the last election.

I have concerns about his age. He’s about the age of my grandmother, and I know how my grandmother is.

But I think we saw a fiery speech from him yesterday, and it made me more confident. He showed us that he can still be quick on his feet. He delivered some blows back to Republican hecklers that were excellent.

I’ll definitely be voting for Joe Biden, even though he has issues and problems with age.

Biden followed through on delivering a black woman to the Supreme Court. He has fought against losing protections with the overturning of Roe v Wade. He’s done his best to cancel student loan debt.

Image source, Darlene Buhler

Darlene Buhler, South Dakota, Republican

Darlene, 65, voted for Donald Trump in 2020 and hasn’t been persuaded to vote differently this time around.

“Fiery” is a polite word to say that he was rambling. He just seemed to be mad, and he came off as a grumpy old man.

To me, the expectations and the bar were set too low. It was like, “let’s just hope he gets through this and not stumble off the stage”. He was more coherent than I’ve heard him in the past.

And so the question is, do I think he can handle four more years? I don’t think so. It’s a shame that we don’t have an age limit.

If I have to choose between him and Donald Trump, I’ll choose Trump, the lesser of two evils. I don’t feel like President Biden or the Democratic party have done enough for black people. They expect to automatically receive our vote. They have to earn it.

Image source, Amy Kalokerinos

Amy Kalokerinos, New York, Independent

Amy, 42, has voted both Democrat and Republican in her lifetime.

I think it’s the best speech President Biden has ever given in his entire career. Before yesterday, I did have doubts. But I do not question his aptitude after last night’s speech.

Him pounding on the podium, him speaking more sternly and yelling – that’s all the stuff that Trump does that the American population responds to. He’s presenting differently, and I think it’s resonating.

I am an ageist, right or wrong. And I do think both candidates are too old.

I voted for Biden in 2020 and will vote for anyone but Trump in November. Overturning Roe v Wade was it for me.

Image source, Michelle Dunkley

Michelle Dunkley, New Jersey, Democrat

Michelle, 60, voted Democrat in the last presidential election. She’s not thrilled by either candidate’s age, but will vote for Biden again.

The State of the Union address felt like more of a campaign speech, designed to promote his mental acuity.

He diplomatically chided his predecessor for his language and actions that have deepened the political divisions in this country.

As much as I like Biden, I believe he is too old to continue to lead the country. But if Trump wins he will be as old during his term.

This country needs younger people to lead.

Karen Kemp, Connecticut, Democrat

Karen, 48, voted for Joe Biden in 2020. She was worried about how he would perform at the podium.

I had concerns that Joe Biden would not be able to combat the pervasive perceptions that too often follow the elderly, things like they serve no use to society.

I thought he might stutter and lose his train of thought. But he showed energy and experience.

His State of the Union speech boiled down the choice Americans will face in November and drew clear distinctions between a party and man who wants good things for this country and a former president who holds a starkly different, largely unfavourable view.

I don’t need to love my president, but I do need not to feel ashamed of who they are.


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