Grim milestone: Biden has worst job approval at this stage of any modern elected president

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

I need to convince Ed to stop using that old photo of Biden with Jimmy Carter as a screencap for his posts about Biden’s falling numbers.

It’s unfair to Carter at this point, frankly.


Not only is POTUS a few points worse was at this stage of his presidency than Carter was, he’s also a few points worse than you-know-who. Since Gallup started polling presidential approval in the 1950s, in fact, no one has ever rated more poorly in the summer of his second year than Biden.

Reagan was also struggling with a recession and high inflation in 1982 (although the latter was at least trending downward at this point) and he was still a few points better than Sleepy Joe is now.

Then again, at a spry 71 years old, he was considerably younger and more vigorous than the current occupant of the office. Maybe his youthful vitality earned him the benefit of the doubt and a few extra points in polling.

Gallup has Biden sitting at 38 percent approval today, the worst number of his term in their polling and the first time he’s been below the political Mendoza line of 40 percent. Among independents it’s 31 percent, also a new low. And he now enjoys the distinction of having the highest “strong disapproval” rating among members of the other party of any recent president. The worst that the hyperpolarizing Trump ever did was 83 percent strong disapproval among Dems. The worst that Barack Obama ever did among Republicans was 75 percent. George W. Bush, who was despised by Democrats for the Iraq war, bottomed out at 81 percent strong disapproval. Biden, by comparison, is currently rocking an *87 percent* rating of strong disapproval among GOPers.


Overall, more than three times as many Americans strongly disapprove of him (45 percent) than strongly approve (13 percent). How many people on either side saw “less popular than Trump” as his political legacy on Inauguration Day, two weeks after the insurrection?

The irony of these terrible numbers appearing today is that the media is suddenly taking a second look at President Joe in the wake of his — or rather, Joe Manchin’s — “win” on the new Build Back Better bill. “Biden is suddenly winning (just don’t say the ‘R’ word),” declares AFP. “Wait, Is Biden a Better President Than People Thought?” asks John Harris at Politico. If you just ignore the last half a year, said Van Jones on CNN, Biden’s actually had a pretty successful presidency:

It’s true that Biden has delivered on more big-ticket legislation than most expected. He got COVID relief, he got infrastructure, he got a gun bill, he got CHIPS, he may yet get a law protecting gay marriage, and soon he might have a bigger-than-anticipated version of Build Back Better if he can navigate Manchin and Sinema. But he also got grinding inflation thanks to COVID relief, which is hungrily devouring the wages of lower- and middle-class voters everywhere. And that’s all that’ll matter this fall.



A few weeks ago I wrote about voters possibly “decoupling” their support for Democratic congressional candidates from their disappointment in Biden. The president’s approval numbers are ugly and have gotten much uglier over the past three months, but the trend for his party is … different. Nate Silver pointed out today that there’s simply no denying that Democrats look stronger in congressional races, particularly Senate races, than they did at the start of June. On June 1 his model gave them a 40 percent chance of winning the Senate. Today it gives them a 55 percent chance. What gives?

It’s mostly a Roe backlash at work, Silver speculates, but there are other factors trending Dems’ way.

It’s not clear how much the Jan. 6 hearings have changed public opinion, but they have highlighted an issue where the public is relatively sympathetic toward Democrats, with 79 percent of voters saying former President Donald Trump acted either unethically or illegally in a new CNN poll.

COVID-19 — an issue that was something of a no-win for President Biden — is on the backburner for most voters. In the aforementioned Suffolk/USA Today poll, so few voters mentioned COVID-19 as their most important issue that it wasn’t broken out as one of the 25 issues respondents named. Cases remain high, but deaths are low compared to earlier stages of the pandemic.

Granted, the economic news hasn’t been good for Democrats. Most voters think the economy is in a recession, even though the bureau that determines recessions in the U.S. hasn’t declared one yet and may never do so. But at the same time, some highly visible indicators have improved: Gas prices are down and the stock market has been in a rebound over the past five to six weeks.


The thoughtfully cautious expectation for the fall at this moment in time is that Republicans will still clean up in House races but battlegrounds where the Republican nominee is conspicuously weak might yet end up in Democratic hands. The GOP might rue the day it nominated Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker if we end up with a surprise Supreme Court vacancy next year.

I’ll leave you with this right track/wrong track data from Morning Consult. By comparison, these numbers were 40/60 on the eve of the Democrats’ blue wave in 2018. I wouldn’t want to be a Dem running this year with this weight on my back.

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