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Opinion: Biden’s declining approval rating not all his fault, but a legislative victory would help

Nov 01, 2021


When it comes to presidential approval, voters have a short memory, which is why approval ratings for the Commander-in-Chief frequently start to decline after they take office. After starting with an approval rating in the mid-50s that held for the first few months of his presidency, President Joe Biden’s numbers began to decline in the summer.

Conventional wisdom may point to the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. service members as the primary factors pushing down President Biden’s numbers. That situation led to bipartisan criticism of the White House for its handling. The alarming rise in inflation is also another potential factor. But a closer look indicates the resurgence of the coronavirus because of the highly-contagious delta variant is the main driver behind Biden losing favor with voters.

How worried should Biden and his advisers be? It’s not a crisis yet, but it underscores just how important getting a signature legislative win like his infrastructure bill could be to his reelection chances.

All right. Let’s talk about Joe Biden’s approval as president now to really have a serious discussion about Joe Biden’s approval. We first have to talk about just historical presidential approval trends. It is very, very common that a president enters office with a pretty healthy approval rating and that over time approval rating tends to go down with some exceptions, which we will talk about. Why does approval rating tend to go down over time? Many Americans, uh, I’m talking people, but okay. We’re talking about American presidential approval here. Many Americans have a very black and white view on presidential approval. Um, presidents do hundreds, thousands of different things. Many people after a president does one thing they don’t like. They no longer approve of that president for as long as they remain in office. This is not very practical. I don’t find it very sensible. I don’t think it makes sense.

I don’t think most people apply it almost in any other area of life, but this is the way it works. You, you have, uh, uh, views on education, foreign policy, abortion spending, et cetera. Um, a president might do the things you like on nine of those on one of those, the 10th, they do something you don’t like. And you say, I no longer approve of the president, even though you like 90% of what they’ve done. So by its nature, the longer a president is in office. The more time there is for them to do something you don’t like. And at that point, you switch from approving to not approving. So generally approval, declines over time. What are some exceptions? Well, you go back to nine 11 and George W. Bush after nine 11 had huge approval. I think it got into the low seventies, which in the relatively modern political era is almost unheard of as divided as the United States is as polarized as the USS.

He had huge approval in 2001, but then squandered that approval as the feeling of sort of a national unity post nine 11 faded with George W. Bush invading the wrong country after nine 11, going into Iraq, which became an unpopular Boer war, became a quagmire, became a sinkhole of money, et cetera, et cetera. And ultimately Bush was reelected. Uh, but with quite a low approval rating in the low forties, if I recall correctly. Okay. So that’s kind of the setup. Trump is a different animal where Trump left office with the absolute lowest approval rating of any president in the modern era. I believe it was 29, according to some polls. So that gets us to Joe Biden, Joe Biden started. And we’re going to actually look at this. Joe Biden started, uh, with a nice approval rating that started in the mid fifties and very quickly popped, uh, to 55, which 55 out of a hundred it’s barely half.

But in this, in this context, that actually w was, was quite stable and pretty good. And as you can see, it held quite steady, um, through February, March, April, and into late. And then you started to see some declines, but where the approval rating for Joe Biden really started to decline was at the end of July. Now, many people immediately attributed this to Afghanistan, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, unfortunately because time, as far as we know moves forward, uh, that’s not possible because Afghanistan, uh, the Afghanistan withdrawal and the controversy that came with it didn’t happen until August. My belief about the declining Biden approval rating that started in July was a result of the rise of the Delta variant. From the standpoint of the pandemic, Joe Biden had been doing a good job on the pandemic building vaccination cases had been going down, not because of Joe Biden, but it coincided.

Then we started to see Delta spread vaccination, slow down, uh, and cases start to turn around. Much of that is because of Republican governors in red states, but I’m not going to lie to you and tell you the buck doesn’t stop with Joe Biden. He will get the praise and he will get the criticism. And that’s why the approval started to decline in late July. It then declined even more at the end of August, at which point I believe we can attribute it to Afghanistan. Now, as I’ve said before, I am 110% in favor of leaving Afghanistan. Trump’s plan was no better. The same chaos would have happened under Trump staying another one year, two years, three years, not going to fix anything. It’s time to go. It’s been a disaster in Afghanistan, but I understand that the chaos could have been better dealt with, regardless of who was president at the time, it would have been something to deal with and that further hurt Joe Biden’s approval.

And since then, my view has been, it’s probably going to continue trickling down into the low forties, if, and until Joe Biden can get something major done, Biden needs, major legislation to be done. And soon in order to turn this around. And so while it doesn’t look great over the last month and a half, it’s sort of re stabilized in the mid forties, could this go down further? Yes, it could, but will it really make a difference? Um, uh, for the midterms, it’s hard to say, and that’s really going to be the next test, essentially, uh, midterms to some degree are referenda on who’s in the oval office. Although the person in the oval office is not up for election in the midterms. Um, and I, I believe that for Democrats to do well in November of 22, which is now just 13, 12 and a half, 13 months away, 12 and a half, 13 months away in order for Democrats to do well, Biden needs another major accomplishment.

Will it be infrastructure maybe, uh, will it be more permanently dealing with the immigration problem and getting a permanent solution to DACA recipients? It would be good. I, I don’t, I’m not feeling super optimistic that there’s the political will to do that. Uh, but the bottom line here is it’s not shocking that Biden’s approval is lower today than where it started. We can clearly attribute to specific events to the decline, the rise of the Delta, variant and Afghanistan. And this is likely where it will stay unless something that the American public likes takes place. Um, in terms of reelection, I hesitate to even talk about that that’s really far out, but I think it is important to mention Bush won reelection with similar slash lower approval than Joe Biden has today. But it is with very narrow coalitions. I believe with Bush in 2004, it was about 140,000 votes in Ohio that were the difference between Bush reelected and John Kerry as president.


Biden could get reelected with this approval rating, but you would be leaving a lot to the whims of voters in just a few states in those last few days before the election, Joe Biden is not well advised to leave things to chance in that way.

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