- President Joe Biden’s polling slump has gotten worse.
- While there are many contributing factors, two in particular stand out.
- Pandemic expectations got out ahead of him, and independent voters keep souring on him.
Coming off a tumultuous summer, President Joe Biden has yet to turn around his sinking approval rating.
The US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the prospect of the US defaulting on its debt payments, his infrastructure bill being stalled in Congress, inflation, and other policy issues like immigration have presented problems for his administration.
Yet beyond his first-term honeymoon phase being over and his political brand proving more vulnerable to outside events than former President Donald Trump’s was, the numbers show two main factors keeping him bogged down.
He’s in a predicament close to what former President Barack Obama found himself in during his first term, but the COVID-19 pandemic and a diminished standing among voters unaffiliated with a party are unique to Biden.
Biden’s two biggest polling problems are pandemic expectations and appealing to independent voters.
Biden started with an unprecedentedly high approval rating among independents at 61% in Gallup’s tracking poll.
- That support has steadily decreased in every month of his presidency, dropping to 37% in September directly following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Biden’s vaccine mandate for employers.
- Biden’s current support among independents is similar to the group’s support of Trump throughout his presidency: approximately 35%.
- The president still maintains approval from 90% of Democrats, down from a high of 98%, according to Gallup.
In 2011, Obama’s Gallup approval rating averaged out to 44.7%. Biden’s most recent Gallup rating fell to 43%, down from a high of 57%. What was going on then that’s similar to now? An impending debt crisis.
- Congress signed four separate continuing resolutions to keep the government funded in 2011.
- The Congressional dysfunction was one reason Standard & Poors listed in downgrading the country’s credit rating from AAA, the highest rating possible, to AA+.
- Most of the Republican caucus and a handful of Democrats have refused to raise the debt ceiling in 2021, leading to a continuing resolution signed that will keep the government funded until December.
What’s different for Biden compared to Obama – and what continues to drag him down – is the pandemic and the public’s expectations for life to get back to normal.
- Pollsters that ask about his handling of the pandemic have found a slide in that metric among independents, which tends to mirror his overall job approval rating with the same group.
- In January, 61% of independent voters told Gallup they approved of Biden’s job performance. The latest poll shows his support dropping to 37% among independents.
- An October Ipsos poll found the number of Americans who expect it to take a year from now “before they can return to normal life” has tripled from 9% in early June to 30% this month.
With COVID-19 not going away anytime soon, Biden and Democrats will have to confront these headwinds as they approach the 2022 midterms, where theyrisk losing the House and Senate.