By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – “My first reaction was ‘wow'” said Iowa pollster Ann Selzer of her new survey for the Des Moines Register showing the bottom falling out of President Joe Biden’s standing among Iowans.

It takes a lot to stun Selzer, one of the nation’s most respected pollsters for decades. But her survey found Biden’s modest honeymoon there has collapsed in a storm of voter disapproval.

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Support for his handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the migrant waves at the southern border has plummeted. And approval of his handling of the pandemic, once a strong point, has cratered, down 17% since June, dragging his overall job approval down 12 points to 31 percent – lower than Donald Trump’s worst showing during his presidency.

“This is a bad poll for Joe Biden, no doubt about it,” she said.

What has gone wrong?

It’s no surprise that Republicans overwhelmingly pan Biden’s performance on Afghanistan, for instance. But his 61% percent support among Democrats on that issue is a sign of bi-partisan dismay. “It’s a majority, alright, but normally we would see far more support; we would see 80% sometimes 90% for the home team,” noted Selzer.

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And while support from women put Biden in the White House, there is little gender gap in the current backlash. “The surprising thing is how little variation there is across demographic groups,” she says.

Selzer sees signs of a letdown among voters who hoped for faster, more impressive results. “There was a wish for a new direction, and there were signals that that was coming. And then when it turns into one quagmire after another, there could be some heightened negativity because people had higher expectations.”

So how can Biden improve his standing with voters?

By performing better and doing a better job of communicating his successes, for starters.

If and when this COVID-19 surge eases, gas prices drop, and the popular infrastructure bill passes, his numbers will improve.

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But in an era when partisanship is so rigid that presidential ratings rarely fluctuate that much, these Iowa numbers are a sign that voters are on edge, ready to vent their anxiety on Biden when he stumbles, however temporarily.

Jon Keller