Roughly nine months into his presidency, Joe Biden is on the verge of writing his name into the history books – and not in a good way.
The latest polling from Gallup pegs the President’s approval at just 42%, the lowest of his term to date and the second lowest of any president Gallup has measured at this moment in their presidency over the last almost five decades.
Here’s a look at Biden’s approval in comparison to his predecessors in Gallup polling (all of this data comes courtesy of the terrific Gallup Presidential Approval Center):
* Biden 42% (272 days into his presidency)
* Donald Trump 37% (283 days)
* Barack Obama 52% (271 days)
* George W. Bush 88% (288 days)
* Bill Clinton 47% (271 days)
* George H.W. Bush 70% (289 days)
* Ronald Reagan 53% (286 days)
* Jimmy Carter 54% (277 days)
(Worth noting: Both Bushes had hugely high ratings at this stage of their presidencies thanks to external events. For George W. Bush, he was still in the stratosphere in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. For George H.W. Bush, his numbers were inflated following the Tienanmen Square attack in China in June 1989 and the perceived ending of the Cold War.)
Biden’s numbers have fallen precipitously in Gallup polling over the last several months. As recently as June, a solid majority (56%) of the country approved of the job he was doing. That number began to collapse at the end of the summer – dropping from 49% approval in August to 43% in September – and have stayed at that low number for the bulk of the fall.
The reasons for Biden’s polling decline is clear: A confluence of events including a disastrous pullout of American troops from Afghanistan, the surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Delta variant, ongoing supply chain issues and a focus on the continued struggles of the President and Democrats in Congress to pass the bulk of his domestic agenda.
Some of those developments – most notably the emergence of the Delta variant and its ravaging of the unvaccinated in the country – aren’t Biden’s fault. But when you are president, you have to take the blame for what goes wrong in the country – whether or not it’s your fault. And that’s where Biden finds himself.
Now, it’s worth noting – as the numbers above make clear – that where a president stands in job approval nine months into his term is not always predictive of how he will look when he runs for a second term. George H.W. Bush lost reelection despite being at 70% 280 days into his presidency. Ditto Jimmy Carter and his 54% approval at this stage. Bill Clinton won even though he was under 50%.
The real danger in Biden’s current approval rating doldrums is for his party’s candidates in the coming midterm election. If a president’s approval rating is under 50%, his party loses an average of 37 seats in the House. Average!
In 2018, Trump’s approval rating in the final Gallup poll before the election was mired in the low 40s and Republicans lost 40 House seats (and the majority). In 2010, Obama’s approval rating had dipped to 45% and Democrats lost 63 seats (and the majority). In 1994, Clinton’s approval rating was 46% and Democrats lost 53 seats (and the majority).
You get the idea. The evidence is pretty conclusive – and none of it points to good news for Democrats in 2022.
Now, it’s of course worth noting that it’s late October 2021, not late October 2022. And that if Biden and congressional Democrats can find a way to a compromise on both the “hard” infrastructure plan and the social safety net legislation, that Democrats could well have an appealing package of accomplishments to sell to voters come next November. There’s also the reality that the trend lines on Covid-19 cases are headed downward, and, if that keeps up, Biden could well benefit some from an overall improved outlook among the populace.
But at this moment, Biden’s approval rating struggles put his party in a dire political position – and one they have limited ability to control.