Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Majority of Americans think Biden lacks the ‘mental sharpness’ to be president, poll finds

White House press secretary Jen Psaki dodged concerns about Joe Biden’s ‘mental capacity’ when asked about president’s performance

Justin Vallejo
New York
Monday 28 February 2022 21:50 GMT
Biden asks reporter if they're a 'junkie' in testy exchange over cognitive health

Joe Biden will go into his first State of the Union address with a majority Americans concerned about the state of the president’s mental capacity, according to a new poll.

A new poll by ABC News/The Washington Post released on the eve of Mr Biden’s speech found that 54 per cent of Americans don’t believe he has the “mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president”.

Only 40 per cent believe Mr Biden is mentally sharp enough for the job in a near-180 degree turnaround from 2020, when most Americans, 51 per cent, thought he had the mental acuity for holding office compared to the 43 per cent who didn’t.

The poll also found that 59 per cent of Americans do not think Mr Biden is a strong leader, up from 49 per cent two years ago.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki dodged the public sentiment of Biden’s presidency when questioned about his mental capacity by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“A majority in our recent poll out this morning even question the president’s mental capacity, how is he going to turn that around on Tuesday night and how much has the State of the Union been changed by this war in Ukraine?” Mr Stephanopoulos asked during his Sunday program.

In her response, Ms Psaki ignored Mr Stephanopoulos’ question about the septuagenarians’ mental fortitude and instead focused on the president’s upcoming speech.

“You know, George, from covering State of the Unions for some time, that it is about delivering a message to the public at a moment in time. And if you look back when President Obama gave his first State of the Union, it was during the worst financial crisis in a generation,” Ms Psaki said.

“When President Bush gave his first State of the Union, it was shortly after 9/11. Leaders lead during crises. That’s exactly what President Biden is doing. He’ll speak to that, but he’s also going to speak about his optimism about what’s ahead and what we all have to look forward to.”

Psaki dodges question on whether Biden has 'mental capacity' to be president

Nearly 40 Republicans this month demanded that Joe Biden take a cognitive test and share his results with the public, writing in a letter to the president they were “worried about your cognitive and mental abilities”.

“We believe that, regardless of gender, age, or political party, all Presidents should follow the example set by former President Trump to document and demonstrate sound mental abilities,” 38 GOP members of Congress wrote Mr Biden in February.

The letter, signed by former White House doctor and Republican congressman Ronnie Jackson, listed examples of “changes in mood and personality” that the Alzheimer’s Association lists as signs of mental decline.

  • January 2022: Calling a White House press corps reporter a “stupid son of a b****”.
  • December 2021: Unable to read the accurate numbers of Americans who had received Covid booster shots.
  • May 2021: Telling a story about visiting his mother in 2013 despite her passing in 2019
  • March 2021: Forgetting the name of the Pentagon, the Department of Defence, and the Defence Secretary
  • February 2021: Forgetting the purpose of a visit to survey storm damage in Texas
  • Forgetting state names during his presidential campaign in the past two years

Mr Biden has so far declined to either take a cognitive test, or publicly release the results of one if he has, despite mocking Donald Trump for bragging about passing the test in the past.

When pressed during the presidential campaign about whether he would accept Trump’s challenge to take the test, Mr Biden suggested the reporter was a “junkie” for asking such a question.

At an event for Black and Hispanic journalists, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee compared the question to asking CBS correspondent Errol Barnett if he was using cocaine during the interview.

“No, I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test?” Come on, man,” he told CBS correspondent Errol Barnett.

“That’s like saying you, before you got on this program, you take a test where you’re taking cocaine or not. What do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?” he added.

When asked for a response to Donald Trump, who bragged about passing a cognitive test and made Mr Biden’s mental state an issue for voters, Mr Biden suggested that Mr Barnett was trying to provoke him to stimulate a reaction.

“Well, if he can’t figure out the difference between an elephant and a lion, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Did you watch that – look, come on, man,” he said.

“I know you’re trying to goad me, but I mean . . . I’m so forward-looking to have an opportunity to sit with the President or stand with the President and the debates.”

While the Biden campaign did not respond to CBS’ request for additional context comparing a cognitive test to a test for cocaine, they told Politico that Mr Biden gave a deserving response to a preposterous question.

“It was a preposterous question deserving of a response that showed the absurdity of it all,” a Biden official told Politico.

Mr Trump challenged Mr Biden to take the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, used to test dementia, as the question of cognitive decline has become a focus for both candidates in the 2020 election cycle.

At a campaign event, Mr Biden previously said he’s “been tested and I’m constantly tested” when asked about his mental state, but the CBS interview was his first confirmation that he had not taken a formal test.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in