Biden’s approval rating after 8 months: What can it tell us about his re-election chances?

By Lee Cleveland, Polls and Trends - October 2, 2021

According to FiveThirtyEight’s aggregate of top pollsters, President Joe Biden’s approval rating stands at 45 percent, a far cry from his high point of 54.7 percent in late May.


And Gallup, who is often credited as the developer of public polling, had the president sitting at 57 percent in both his inaugural poll and in an early April survey, but listed his approval rating at a lowly 43 percent in its most recent finding which was conducted September 1-17.

So, how does Biden, after eight months (or about 240 days), compare with other presidents? And what does history tell us about approval rating movement after eight months to the days leading up to the presidential election?

Given Gallup has, by far, the most presidential polling data of U.S. presidents over the last 40 years, it makes the most sense to use their data when comparing shifts in presidents’ approval scores.

First poll 
(Within 15 days

of assuming
leadership)
After 8 months
(230-240 days
in office)

 
Final poll
heading
into

presidential
election
(1st Term)

Election
result





JOE BIDEN
57%43% –
DONALD TRUMP45%38%46%Lost
Re-election
BARACK OBAMA67%51%52%Won
Re-election
GEORGE W. BUSH57%90%53%Won
Re-election
BILL CLINTON58%56%54%Won
Re-election
GEORGE H.W. BUSH51%70%34%Lost
Re-election
RONALD REAGAN51%60%58%Won
Re-election
Courtesy: Gallup

As we can see, 3 of the last 4 presidents dipped in approval from their inaugural poll to the 240-day mark. And while Biden dipped 14 points, Obama’s drop was even more significant (16). Meanwhile, Trump, already struggling during his first two weeks as president, experienced a seven-point drop in the same period.

The Bad News for Democrats
Only one former president, of the six examined, significantly improved his Gallup approval rating from the 8-month mark to presidential election time. Meanwhile, both Bushes experienced mammoth dips during that 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 8-month mark

Ratings After 8 Months Can Totally Tank
George H.W. Bush, who’d been a supposed shoo-in to win re-election during most of his presidency, saw his fortunes change rapidly and decisively. With a 70 percent approval rating at the 8-month mark, he’d soar to 89 percent at 25 months only to fizzle to 34 percent at election time. The elder Bush would lose to Bill Clinton.

Number 41’s demise was marked by a combination of dismal economic numbers, a broken campaign pledge to not raise taxes, the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates just prior to the election, and a pesky but popular, charismatic third-party candidate who would cut deeply into the Republican base.

If There’s a Bright Spot for Biden, it’s Trump
The previous president managed a resurgence of sorts in 2020. Within a week prior to the election, Trump’s Gallup approval rating surged to 46 percent, 8 points above his 240-day mark, to make the 2020 race competitive.

Biden will probably need at least a 6 to 7-point lift in his Gallup approval rating from now until late October/early November 2024 to have any hope of being re-elected.

Finding That Range
Obviously, there are many factors that will determine Biden’s approval rating heading into the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election, should he run. And in presidential politics, 37 months, the time from now until the next presidential election, might as well be 37 years. As George H.W. Bush would have certainly attested, a lot can happen in one year let alone three. Nevertheless, it would behoove a president to avoid hanging out below 50 percent for an extended period.

Trump, whose approval numbers were in the mid-30s to low 40s during most of his presidency, did well to regain much of his lost support by election time but had previously dug himself too deep of a hole and couldn’t overcome the surge in Democratic turnout versus four years prior.

If you’re a Biden supporter, you’ll want to see the president’s approval rating hovering between 52 and 55 percent heading into the 2024 Presidential Election, but certainly no lower than 51 percent.

And if his approval score is lower than 51 percent, you’ll want to see him polling, head-to-head, at least 3 or 4 points better than his opponent in the days leading up the election.

Because the Electoral College favors the more rural, thinly-populated states, Trump, even with just a 46 percent (Gallup) approval rating on Election Day, was still a live dog last year.

Biden will not have that luxury in 2024.

Gallup called it: Entering the 2020 Election, Biden had a 4-point lead over Trump, 49-45 percent, in Gallup’s pre-Election Day poll. The former would win the popular vote by 4.4 percent.

Tags: Joe Biden, presidential approval, U.S. Presidential Race 2024