Biden approval ratings: Will he ever bounce back?

By Lee Cleveland, Polls and Trends - October 7, 2021

President Joe Biden spent the beginning of his term in good public standing, receiving approval ratings from top pollsters in the low to high-50s.

Not bad in a very polarized environment. But his honeymoon period came to an end in late summer,  presumably due to :

  • the delta variant of the coronavirus which led to a surge in cases and deaths,
  • fears about inflation
  • the astonishingly fast collapse of the American-imposed government in Afghanistan and the humanitarian crisis that ensued as a result, and
  • his handling of the border situation

Today, after 260 days in office, Biden’s approval rating per’s aggregate of top pollsters is 44.1 percent, a far cry from his high of 54.7 percent on May 25.

Question: Will Biden ever see the low to mid-50s again during his current term?

Answer: Maybe, but the odds are against him.


No Immediate Revival
Via the aforementioned polling aggregate, Biden has been below 50 percent since August 16 despite predictions his ratings would recover after Afghanistan faded from the headlines and virus deaths significantly lessened.

That’s a bad sign because it suggests his unfavorability is sticking and is not just a temporary knee-jerk reaction to current events.

Even worse, he’s continuing to slide. In fact, Biden has a lower approval rating at this point in his term than all but two presidents since 1945.

Indicator?: The fact he hasn’t seen any restoration of approval given Afghanistan is no longer front-page news and pandemic deaths have subsided might be the biggest indicator the president may face a rocky road ahead.

At certain points of their administrations, Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama reached approval ratings north of 65 percent. In today’s climate, such high ratings would be nearly impossible.

Given the level of division, a solid 40 to 45 percent of Americans will disapprove of President Biden no matter what he does. He could save the world from imminent destruction and they would still disapprove. As a result, only 55 to 60 percent of Americans would consider giving him high marks. Hence, Biden must satisfy an overwhelming percentage of liberals, moderates, and independents in order to get his numbers comfortably above 50 percent.

The Economy
Sans the initial economic plunge following the coronavirus outbreak, the economy has been relatively strong since 2014 so it wouldn’t be surprising if we experienced some softening going forward.

Just as there are bull and bear markets, economies tend to be cyclical – So Biden, through no fault of his own, may receive the brunt of criticism from the masses should the economy take an expected and normal dip.

The status of the economy in 2024 will be absolutely crucial in Biden’s re-election bid.

Perceptions of Crime
Americans continue to freak out about violent crime in the United States. In fact, nearly 80 percent think it’s a major problem and insist that crime is worse today than it was 30 years ago.

False… Very false.

Even with the violent crime surge last year, 2020 wasn’t even close to 1980s levels.

Prior to the start of the pandemic in March 2020, violent crime had been plummeting since the late 1990s, dropping to lows the country hadn’t seen in decades. But, unfortunately, last year’s resurgence has continued during Biden’s presidency and we should probably expect elevated numbers well into 2022.

Because we’re not likely to see the violent crime rate return to (low) 2017-2019 levels, the public will insist Biden isn’t doing enough to curtail it even though rates of violent crime will likely remain far lower than they were under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush – and possibly lower than in 2020, Donald Trump’s last full year in office,

Approval Rating History
Only one former president on record has significantly improved his approval rating from the 260-day mark versus Election Week. Meanwhile, both Bushes experienced mammoth dips after this time in their respective reigns while Clinton, Reagan, and Obama, just prior to their successful re-lections, boasted ratings within +/-2 points of their scores at the 260-day mark, some 37 months earlier.

Ironically, Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor, managed to boost his approval rating 7 to 10 points from this time in his presidency (early October 2017) to Election Week (early November 2020).

Contrary to popular assumption, Trump’s questionable handling of the pandemic did nothing to hurt his approval scores. His ratings in 2020 were much higher versus the marks he attained in his previous three years in office,

For the most part, minus Trump, we haven’t seen substantial increases in approval when comparing presidents’ ratings at their 240-260 day mark to their approval scores during Election Week.

Will Biden Bounce Back?
If’s there’s little or no attrition in the economy and Biden doesn’t stumble again as he did in Afghanistan, he can still move the needle. However, don’t expect to see him at 55 percent; but somewhere between 49 and 53 percent is a possibility.

Should Biden stay clear of mishaps, the real keys to boosting his ratings will be the outcome of his infrastructure plan (short term) and the state of the economy (long-term).

Some Good News for Biden: Unlike Trump, who never reached 50 percent in any survey conducted by a respectable pollster during his four years in office, Biden’s scored as high as 57 percent in polling conducted by multiple, reputable firms. Therefore, we know he, at the very least, is certainly capable of comfortably breaching 50 percent.

But, again, the odds are against him.

Tags: Joe Biden, presidential approval