News Update

Analysis: Biden's approval rating is historically consistent

The verdict so far has been historically consistent. Biden sports the steadiest approval rating on record for a president through nearly 100 days in office.
Looking at the average poll, his approval rating sits at right around 54%. You see this in data released on Sunday from ABC News/Washington Post (52% approve), CBS News/YouGov (58% approve), Fox News (54% approve) and NBC News (53% approve).
Biden’s approval rating at this point is not historically strong, by any means. Most other presidents in the post-World War II era had approval ratings above him at this point. The only clear exceptions were Gerald Ford, after he pardoned Richard Nixon, and Donald Trump, whose approval rating never got above 50%.
What makes Biden unique is that his approval rating at the beginning of his presidency was a very similar 53%. In fact, if you were to average the polls on any given day, you’ll see that Biden’s approval rating has never gone higher than 55% or even reached as low as 52% during the more than three months he’s been in office. It’s averaged a little less than 54%.
The range of results has traded within a band of less than 3 points. To put it mildly, this is an extremely narrow range. The median difference between the highest average approval rating a president had and lowest during their first 100 days in office has been 9.5 points.
The president with the narrowest range before Biden, Lyndon Baines Johnson, had a range of 4 points between their lowest and highest average approval rating. The president with the widest range, the aforementioned Ford, had a range of 26 points.
The range of Biden’s ratings may actually be underselling their consistency, however. He’s had a few days where he reached 55% or fell below 53%, but those have been very rare. If you were to construct a confidence interval in which 95% of all of Biden’s approval ratings would fall, it’s been within about a point of his average.
Again, that’s a record for any president in the post-World War II era during their first 100 days. Trump, who analysts and pundits would constantly note had a steady approval rating, had a 95% confidence interval around his approval rating that was three times as large as Biden’s has been.
The lack of a shift in Biden’s approval ratings should not be surprising. They follow a trend that we saw during last year’s campaign for the presidency. Biden always held an advantage over Trump in the national polls, and it was pretty much always between 4 and 10 points on average. No other campaign in the polling era saw such little movement.
Biden’s steady lead over Trump came despite a tumultuous campaign that included the coronavirus pandemic and protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
This year, Biden has overseen the point at which a majority of adults received a Covid-19 vaccine and the passage of a major coronavirus relief package.
Yet his approval numbers have stayed the same.
Biden’s stable approval ratings suggest that Trump’s steady numbers weren’t unique to him. Rather, they’re both indicative of something unique about our current political climate.
It’s been the case for the last few decades that voters have become more set in their ways. Democrats have been less willing to vote (or give approval) to Republicans and vice versa. Likewise, Democrats and Republicans are rarely going to buck their party.
This level of polarization isn’t stopping, and it seems to be hitting higher levels.
Gallup’s data shows this well. Biden’s had an average approval rating of 96% among Democrats over the first few months of his presidency. That’s the highest for any president among his own party ever over the first few months of a presidency. Biden’s approval rating among Republicans has averaged a mere 10%, which is tied with Trump for the lowest among the opposition party.
The 86-point gap between how members of the two parties view Biden is the largest gap at the beginning of a presidency. It beats the 77-point difference Trump had.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll, too, shows a record difference between how the parties view a president after this long on the job.
The good news for Biden is that his approval rating is north of 50%, unlike Trump’s. He’ll be happy to have stability, if it means more people approve of him than not.
Biden’s potential problem is that his approval rating is just north of 50%. While more of Biden’s popularity may be baked in than other presidents because of polarization, it’ll take only a small change for Biden’s approval rating to be below 50%.
Now, we obviously don’t know how the rest of Biden’s presidency will go. It’s quite possible something will shake things up either good or bad for the President.
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