One year in, Biden's approval rating is in trouble

In the face of the omicron surge, many Americans are now even more pessimistic that the pandemic will be ending soon. Many states and communities have also reinstituted COVID-19 social distancing policies, such as mask mandates and remote schooling — the latter of which, polls suggest, has made few people happy. Economic concerns have largely worked in tandem with COVID-19 worries, especially inflation, which is the highest it’s been since the early 1980s. While the current rate is not nearly as high as it was then, ongoing inflation has notably jacked up the price of key goods, such as food and gas. Studies of presidential approval have found inflation often drives a decline in a president’s standing, so that’s probably a factor for Biden here, too.

It’s possible that some of these conditions will improve — the coronavirus pandemic has shown us time and again that its trajectory is often unpredictable. But any changes will likely take time, and in the short-term there isn’t a lot that’s positive on the horizon for Biden. Democrats’ legislative agenda is largely in limbo, with both their social spending plan and voting rights push looking like tall orders at this point. Of course, there’s no guarantee that passing either piece of legislation would boost Biden’s standing — after all, there was virtually no change in his approval rating following the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure package in November — but the fact that Democrats are in a legislative holding pattern has led to a lot of negative media attention.

How much of this is within Biden’s control isn’t straightforward.