News Update

Analysis: Why Biden's seen a (slight) decline in his approval ratings

A look at the average of all the polls gives Biden a slightly better spread: an approval rating of 50% and a disapproval rating of 44%
What’s the point: Two weeks ago, I noted that Biden’s approval rating had not moved during the first six months of his administration. Relative to history, Biden’s approval rating is still quite steady.
But for the first time in his administration, you can see that there has been a slight but noticeable decline in his approval rating. This drop has coincided with a dip in how Americans view his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout the first six months of Biden’s term, his approval rating always stood at between 51% and 55%. When it hit 51%, it quickly rebounded into the mid-50s. In fact, his approval rating averaged 53% during his first six months in office.
Over the last few weeks, though, we’ve seen a number of polls come out where Biden’s at or tied for the lowest level of his presidency. We mentioned Quinnipiac earlier. The same is true in the Reuters/Ipsos poll, where Biden’s at 50%. It’s also the case in the Monmouth University poll, which puts Biden’s approval rating at 48%. Gallup pegged Biden’s approval rating at 50%.
None of these polls or the average show a massive decline in Biden’s approval rating. Together, though, they seem to be telling a story that Biden’s approval rating has leaked a little bit.
This wouldn’t be a story if it weren’t for the fact that Biden’s approval rating has been so steady. The shift downward in the last few weeks is an illustration that events and time can move Biden’s numbers.
What could be happening is that the upward case and hospitalization count on the coronavirus is having an effect.
The coronavirus has been Biden’s strongest major issue. It’s probably the reason he beat former President Donald Trump in the last election.
Biden’s normal strength on the coronavirus is no longer as strong as it once was, however. In the Quinnipiac poll, his approval rating on the issue stood at 53%. That’s down from 65% the last time Quinnipiac polled the issue in May.
Other pollsters show similarly. Monmouth, for example, had 55% of Americans saying Biden’s doing a good job on handling the pandemic and 38% doing a bad job. The former is an all-time low for him in the poll, while the latter is an all-time high.
What may be happening as well is that the latest responses on how to deal with the pandemic aren’t the most popular. New vaccine requirements, in government and in business, have come to the forefront.
As I pointed out last week, vaccine mandates are politically risky. While they’re more popular in some instances (such as health care workers) than others (forcing customers to get vaccinated to be served at a restaurant), they tend to be politically divisive. The public is split nearly down the middle on whether the government should be recommending them.
Republicans certainly see an opening and have been trying to stop vaccine mandates in a number of different states.
Of course, it’s possible that Biden’s fortune is merely a circumstance of time. Presidents are often befallen by a swoon in popularity around this time in their administration.
Whatever the exact cause, the key thing here is that Biden looks like he may be susceptible to the same rules of political gravity as other presidents over the long term — even if not subjected to the same wild swings.
The problem for Biden and Democrats is they don’t have a lot of room for error. They have a bare majority in the House, and the barest of bare majorities in the Senate. Even the smallest of declines in Biden’s numbers could mean a Republican House and Senate come 2023.
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