Joe Biden Approval Rating: President Joe Biden is having a big week. He’s had the second-worst approval rating of any president in the polling era at this time in their presidency, trailing only Donald Trump. He passed Jimmy Carter this week, moving up to third-worst. He’ll most certainly overtake Gerald Ford within the following month.
Yes, along with George H.W. Bush, those are three of the four incumbent presidents to lose a presidential election during the polling period. So maybe it won’t be such a big week.
Biden’s presidency began with an uncommon period of approval stability, and he may have entered a second such phase this year. On Jan. 20, the completion of his first year in office, he had a 41.9 percent approval rating.
As I write this, it’s at 41.8 percent, and he’s been within a percentage point of where he is now practically every day for the past three months. The peak of the omicron wave occurred on January 20.
When looking at the daily approval chart (at FiveThirtyEight), it’s easy to see that Biden struck rock bottom soon after, with an all-time low of 40.4 percent towards the end of February.
As the pandemic subsided, his numbers rebounded, only to be struck again in March by a large increase in gasoline prices, which he is slowly recovering from as prices fall. The results support that interpretation… but they also support the idea that he’s been stable for the past three months and that any swings are due to statistical noise.
To put it another way, it’s possible that Biden’s low approval rating is overstated, and that a few months of good news about the epidemic and inflation may spark a strong recovery, removing him as a key stumbling block for Democratic contenders this year.
But it’s also possible that his opponents have hardened, and that even if he gets some good news, he won’t be able to rally.
On the negative side, the same is true. Nothing has pushed Biden below the 40% barrier, which four of his 13 predecessors had reached this stage in their administrations and which three more would reach by the end of their first two years in office. Maybe, even if there’s more terrible news, this line will hold, and Biden, like many presidents before him, is in danger of reaching his 30s or worse.
Many political scientists anticipate that during this period of extreme partisanship, approval ratings will end up in a relatively narrow range. I’m in the minority of those who believe that extremely high and extremely low approval ratings are still feasible.
It’s worth mentioning that a large majority of survey respondents claimed they would gladly pay extra for gasoline to assist Ukraine and punish Russia. However, it appears that Biden’s approval ratings dropped as gas prices peaked in early March and then regained over the subsequent five weeks as prices have stabilized (though they are still very high).
Again, the differences aren’t significant enough to be conclusive, but this appears to be an illustration of the finding that people aren’t very good at anticipating their own reactions to possible news occurrences.
That’s something to think about when it comes to other areas as well. People may say they wish to do various things regarding inflation, but if inflation falls, they will be more friendly to Biden, regardless of whether he fulfilled their policy preferences or not, and regardless of what they expected about their own reactions to hypothetical scenarios.
The same can be said about the pandemic. People may say they want to preserve or eliminate mask mandates or anything else, but the outcomes — case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths — are more likely to indicate whether Biden did a good or horrible job dealing with the coronavirus.
Of course, this isn’t true for every voter or every policy issue. However, regardless of what people believe makes them like or dislike someone, it is outcomes, not policies, that have the most impact on presidential popularity.
To be sure, a variety of factors can influence presidential popularity at the margins, whether it’s a policy viewpoint, the ability to give a good speech, or the efficiency of a government department. And in many circumstances, those are the things under the president’s power, although many larger-scale consequences may be far more difficult to change.
So, all things being equal, it makes sense for presidents to brag about their achievements, deliver impassioned speeches, and emphasize their popular measures while remaining relatively silent on their unfavorable ones. We normally spend a lot of time checking on how the president is doing on these issues because they’re usually under the White House’s control.
The tangible worry among Democrats over their impending annihilation in November’s midterm elections can be felt in the air.
They have good reason to be concerned. The party in power in the White House has a long history of losing seats in Congress in mid-term elections, and with both houses so closely divided, any losses in either will shift control to Republicans.
However, this year’s unique combination of forces may result in historic Democratic defeats. Republicans gained 63 seats in the House of Representatives during President Barack Obama’s first year in office, the largest increase for a party since 1948. Obama’s approval rating was hovering around 45 percent at the time, and he was 3-4 percentage points underwater (the difference between approval and disapproval for a president).
Joe Biden currently has a 41.8 percent approval rating on FiveThirtyEight. That puts Biden around 10 points behind Obama at this time in his presidency, as well as on the day of the 2010 midterm elections.
That could indicate a massacre or disaster on the horizon. But, of course, Biden has more than six months to get his act together — and then another two years before he needs to run for re-election. What can he do to help his party get back on track? An accurate diagnosis of the problem is required to provide a convincing response to that inquiry.
And there, the analysis has been a little naive. Progressives believe Biden has given too much to the moderates. Moderates believe he has enabled the left to dominate his administration. Others point the finger at inflation. Or it could be a crime. Alternatively, scenes of mayhem at the southern border.
The truth is that Biden has been brought low by all of this and more, most notably by the cumulative effect of all of these reports, as well as the president’s and his team’s reaction to them.