When Joe Biden took office as the 46th president of the United States on January 20, 2021, he inherited a nation facing multiple crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recession, racial unrest, climate change, and political polarization. He also faced high expectations from the American people, who gave him a solid victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 election. How has Biden performed in his first year as president?
How has the public evaluated his leadership and policies? And what are the implications of his approval rating for his agenda and his prospects for reelection in 2024? In this article, we will examine the trends and factors that have shaped Biden’s approval rating, which measures the percentage of Americans who approve or disapprove of his job performance.
We will use data from various sources, such as Gallup, Pew Research Center, FiveThirtyEight, and RealClearPolitics, to provide a comprehensive and balanced analysis of Biden’s popularity and challenges. We will also compare Biden’s approval rating to those of his predecessors, such as Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, to put his numbers in historical context.
Finally, we will discuss the potential impact of Biden’s approval rating on his ability to govern, to pass his legislative priorities, and to win a second term in the White House.
A Steady Start: Biden’s First 100 Days
One of the most common benchmarks to evaluate a new president’s performance is the first 100 days in office. This tradition dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used his first 100 days to enact a series of bold reforms to combat the Great Depression. Since then, presidents have tried to use this period to set the tone for their administration, to implement their campaign promises, and to establish their public image.
Biden’s first 100 days were marked by a flurry of executive actions and legislative initiatives, aimed at addressing the multiple crises he inherited. He signed 42 executive orders, more than any of his recent predecessors, on issues such as COVID-19, immigration, climate change, racial justice, and health care.
He also pushed for the passage of the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package that provided relief to millions of Americans affected by the pandemic and the recession. He also launched a massive vaccination campaign, setting and surpassing the goal of administering 100 million doses in his first 100 days.
Biden’s efforts were rewarded with a high approval rating in his first 100 days. According to Gallup, he averaged 57% approval and 37% disapproval from January 20 to April 19, 2021. This was higher than Trump’s 41% approval and 54% disapproval in the same period, but lower than Obama’s 63% approval and 30% disapproval.
Biden also enjoyed a positive net approval rating (the difference between approval and disapproval) of +20 points, which was higher than the average of +14 points for all presidents since Harry Truman. Biden’s approval rating in his first 100 days was driven by several factors.
- He benefited from a honeymoon effect, which is the tendency of the public to give a new president a chance and a favorable rating at the start of their term.
- He received strong support from his party, with 96% of Democrats approving of his job performance.
- He appealed to a majority of independents, with 54% of them approving of his job performance.
- He gained some approval from the opposite party, with 16% of Republicans approving of his job performance.
- He received positive ratings for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 65% of Americans approving of his response.
A Sharp Decline: Biden’s Summer of Discontent
After a steady start, Biden’s approval rating began to decline in the summer of 2021, as he faced a series of challenges and setbacks that eroded his public support. According to Gallup, he averaged 50% approval and 45% disapproval from April 20 to July 19, 2021, a drop of 7 points in approval and an increase of 8 points in disapproval from his first 100 days.
His net approval rating also fell to +5 points, which was lower than the average of +17 points for all presidents in their second quarter since Truman. Biden’s approval rating in the summer of 2021 was affected by several factors.
- He faced a backlash from the Republicans, who intensified their opposition and criticism of his policies and actions. His approval rating among Republicans dropped to 12%, while his disapproval rating among them rose to 87%.
- He lost some support from the independents, who became more skeptical and dissatisfied with his performance. His approval rating among independents dropped to 48%, while his disapproval rating among them rose to 47%.
- He encountered some difficulties and delays in advancing his legislative agenda, such as the infrastructure bill and the voting rights bill, which frustrated some of his supporters and allies. His approval rating among Democrats dropped to 90%, while his disapproval rating among them rose to 9%.
- He faced a surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths, fueled by the Delta variant and the low vaccination rates in some states, which threatened his progress and credibility during the pandemic. His approval rating for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic dropped to 53%.
An Uncertain Future: Biden’s Current Challenges and Opportunities
As Biden enters his second year as president, his approval rating remains low and volatile, reflecting the uncertainty and complexity of the issues he faces. According to Gallup, he averaged 43% approval and 51% disapproval from July 20 to October 18, 2021, a drop of 7 points in approval and an increase of 6 points in disapproval from his second quarter.
His net approval rating also fell to -8 points, which was lower than the average of +9 points for all presidents in their third quarter since Truman. Biden’s approval rating in his current period is influenced by several factors.
- He faces a crisis in Afghanistan, where he ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops, which resulted in a chaotic and deadly evacuation of Americans and allies, and the takeover of the Taliban, which raised questions about his foreign policy and leadership. His approval rating for his handling of the situation in Afghanistan dropped to 31%.
- He faces a stalemate in Congress, where he struggles to pass his ambitious domestic agenda, which includes a $3.5 trillion social spending bill and a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which face opposition and division from both parties. His approval rating for his handling of the economy dropped to 39%.
- He faces a persistent threat of COVID-19, which continues to pose health and economic challenges, despite his efforts to increase vaccination and testing, and to implement mandates and restrictions. His approval rating for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic dropped to 49%.
However, Biden also has some opportunities to improve his approval rating and his prospects for the future.
- He has a chance to deliver on his promises and to show results to the American people, if he can overcome the obstacles and pass his legislative agenda, which includes popular and progressive measures, such as expanding health care, education, child care, and climate action.
- He has a chance to restore his reputation and credibility if he can demonstrate his competence and vision, and address the concerns and expectations of the public, especially on the issues that matter most to them, such as inflation, immigration, and national security.
- He has a chance to capitalize on his advantages and strengths, such as his likability, empathy and compassion, experience and wisdom, and his moderate and pragmatic approach, which appeal to many Americans, especially those in the middle of the political spectrum.
Current Biden Approval Rating
Biden’s popularity among the public is not a single number, but a span that changes based on the source, the sample, the method, and the time of the surveys. Different surveys may have different outcomes, and the average of the surveys may vary over time. Therefore, it is essential to look at various surveys and their patterns to get a more precise and trustworthy picture of Biden’s approval.
The most recent CNN Poll of Polls, which contains a new CBS survey, shows that Biden’s approval among all adults is 41%, with 56% disapproving. This is the lowest approval for Biden since he became president, and it is equal to the second-lowest approval for any president in the modern polling era at this point in their first term.
The only president who had worse approval at this stage was Donald Trump, who had 36% approval and 58% disapproval. The most recent Reuters/Ipsos survey, which was done from Sept. 10 to Sept. 12, 2023, shows that Biden’s approval among registered voters is 40%, with 56% disapproving.
This is also the lowest approval for Biden since he became president, and it is a decrease of 4 points from the previous Reuters/Ipsos survey in August. The survey also found that Biden’s approval of his handling of the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, and foreign policy has dropped since August.
The most recent FiveThirtyEight average of surveys, which includes data from various sources, such as Gallup, Pew Research Center, YouGov, and The Bullfinch Group, shows that Biden’s approval among all adults is 42%, with 52% disapproving. This is the lowest approval for Biden since he became president, and it is a decline of 12 points from his highest of 54% in April.
The FiveThirtyEight average also shows that Biden’s approval has been historically stable and consistent, compared to his predecessors, who had more changes and variations in their popularity.
Biden’s approval rating is not only a reflection of his performance and popularity but also a predictor of his influence and fate. It affects his ability to govern, to pass his policies, and to rally his supporters. It also affects his chances of reelection, to win the nomination of his party, and to defeat his rivals.
Therefore, Biden’s approval rating is a crucial indicator of his success and failure, and his opportunities and challenges, as he leads the nation in these turbulent and uncertain times.