President Joe Biden could be in trouble. With the November midterms on their way, the president must navigate a minefield of economic policy, inflationary issues, a pandemic that’s slowly winding down, a border crisis, and now a war in Ukraine.
As Biden attempts to stay in control of some of the most pressing issues the United States has seen in years, his ratings just keep getting worse. It’s a sign that the Democrats could be seriously in trouble in November and an indication that his legacy is at risk – not to mention a potential second run for the presidency.
Comparing Trump’s and Biden’s First Years
FiveThirtyEight’s timeline of polls of likely registered voters shows two dramatically different trajectories for the two presidents.
Former President Donald Trump’s approval ratings started at around 46% when he took office, with his disapproval rating in the high 30s. Trump spent the rest of his presidency with his approval ratings, on average, lower than his disapproval ratings. By January of 2021, Trump’s approval dropped to 39.4% on average, and his disapproval rating rose to 56.7%. Trump’s approval rating dropped in the final days of his presidency likely as a result of the January 6 riot, which has been described by Democrats as an “insurrection.”
President Joe Biden, however, enjoyed more months with a positive approval rating before those figures flipped. In August last year, Biden’s approval ratings went negative, with his approval rating dropping consistently since then. His disapproval rating climbed steadily, reaching an average of 52.8% by February 25. 41.2% on average approved of Biden’s job performance by that same date.
At the same point in Trump’s presidency – February 25, 2018 – Trump’s approval was marginally higher on average at 41.4% with 54.5% disapproving of his job performance. In the space of six months, Biden gradually lost the support of American voters as his party had more time to pass new legislation, propose new bills, and see their new policies come to fruition. Biden’s approval ratings remain negative and continue to plummet, and Vice President Kamala Harris is tracking at roughly the same as Biden in terms of her popularity – though it did reach a historic low for any vice president in November last year when only 28% of respondents in one poll approved of her performance.
Notably, Trump’s confrontational approach to politics kept his job approval ratings roughly between 40% and 46% for the majority of his presidency.
However, Trump’s time in office was radically different from President Joe Bidens’ time in office. With the war in Ukraine, a troubled withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and inflation reaching a forty-year high, Biden has more troubles on his plate now than Trump had until the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. At this rate, however, the Democrats could be on track to take a beating in the midterm elections just as the Republicans did in 2018.
Biden has time to turn his approval ratings around, but unless he manages to achieve it sometime this year, he will likely find himself unable to pass any further legislation throughout the remainder of his first term in the White House.
Joe Biden Is Unpopular – and Everyone Knows It
President Joe Biden is not popular – and few would claim otherwise. Left-leaning newspaper The Guardian published Lauren Gambino’s analysis of Biden’s unpopularity in January this year, in which she asked, “why is Biden one of the most unpopular US presidents?”
Gambino referred to Biden’s domestic agenda being “stalled” in Capitol Hill, following failures on both his Build Back Better bill and proposed “voting rights” legislation, as well as rising daily COVID infections.
USA Today’s James Robbins argued that Biden is “now less popular than Trump” because “he’s earned it.”
“‘Lower than Trump’ is hardly the first year result the White House expected,” he wrote.
The latest polls show Biden really struggling. A survey by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist suggests that the president’s first year in office has been far less than successful.
56% of respondents said Biden’s first year was a “failure,” while just 39% said it has been a “success.”
While 80% of Democrat-voting respondents said his first year was a success, Biden struggled among Independents and Republicans. Only 7% of Republicans said Biden had performed well, and just 28% of Independents said that same. 91% of Republicans described his performance as a failure, as did 66% of Independents.
Biden’s lack of support among Independents should worry him the most, given that these are the voters who typically choose a winner in presidential races. Independents sided with Joe Biden in 2020’s presidential election, but since then his favorability among this critical voting base has dropped substantially. The NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll showed Biden’s support among Independents dropping to 29% from more than 40% when he first took office.
Those are bad numbers for a president hoping his party will maintain control of Congress in this year’s midterm elections.
The poll also showed that Biden’s biggest problem is the economy, with 38% of respondents saying that inflation should be his top priority. 11% said Biden should be more focused on the pandemic, while just 11% said voting laws should be at the top of his list. Both violent crime and foreign policy came last with 10% each.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and report on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.