News Update

Analysis: How Biden is as liberal as he said he'd be

In August 2020, during the presidential campaign, 47% of Americans said his views on the issues were just about right.
What’s the point: Biden has passed the 100-day mark of his presidency with an approval rating north of 50%, unlike his predecessor Donald Trump. There are a lot of reasons why that may be the case, such as an improving economic and coronavirus pandemic situation.
But let me offer up another simple explanation: Biden is who voters believed he would be as president.
You can see this best ideologically. Much has been made by some that Biden’s agenda has ended up being more progressive than promised. Yet when you look at polls like the new ABC News/Washington Post poll, basically the same percentage of Americans believe Biden’s stances on the issues are about right.
You can also see this when you ask people about Biden’s ideology straight up.
Different polls ask about this in different ways, but I’ve converted them all into a 0 to 100 score with 0 being most conservative, 25 being somewhat conservative, 50 being moderate, 75 being somewhat liberal and 100 being most liberal. I’ve also allocated undecideds.
Biden averages a score of 69, according to an average of polls taken since he entered the White House. You see this well in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll where Biden scores a 66, according to my methodology.
In the polls taken in the months leading up to the 2020 election, his ideological score averaged a 69. Americans see Biden as the same ideologically now as they did in the lead up to the election.
Biden is best described as somewhat liberal in Americans’ eyes.
When you examine a site like OnTheIssues, you come to a similar conclusion about Biden’s ideological consistency. The site looks at a range of issues and rates a politician in a given area on a very liberal to very conservative score.
Before the election, the site had Biden rated as liberal as two of the last three Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. (Bill Clinton was rated as more moderate.) Now, the site has Biden rated the same score as he was in November.
In other words, Americans are right to think that Biden’s general ideology has been fairly steady over the course of the campaign.
This pattern is very different from the one exhibited by Trump. As I’ve written previously, Trump won the White House in 2016 as a candidate who was seen as one of the most moderate Republican presidential candidates in the last 50 years.
After a year in office, Americans viewed Trump as far more conservative than they did when he entered the White House.
This matched up with what OnTheIssues found. Trump went from being one of the most moderate Republican presidents since Gerald Ford to being one of the most conservative.
Trump’s ideological transformation was likely part of the reason he was pretty much always unpopular as president and why he lost in 2020. Trump was so concentrated on satisfying his base that he forgot what got him elected in the first place.
While voters were more likely to put Trump toward the middle of the ideological spectrum than they were Hillary Clinton in 2016, voters put Biden as closer to the middle of the ideological scale than Trump in 2020.
Not surprisingly, Biden expanded upon Clinton’s margin with moderate voters against Trump by 18 points.
Biden’s ideological consistency is probably part of a larger belief that Biden is doing what voters sent him to Washington to do.
In the latest CNN/SSRS poll, 59% of Americans say Biden is doing a good job of keeping important promises he made during the campaign. That’s higher than the 48% who said the same for Trump during an equivalent point in his presidency.
When Americans see you as doing what you said you would do, it’s a recipe for political success.
Indeed, as long as Americans continue to think that Biden is who they believed him to be in 2020, there’s a good chance he’ll continue to be approved by the majority of Americans.
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