A Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted between July 16 and July 18 to 1,997 registered voters showed that President Biden has an approval rating of 52%. 44% of those surveyed think that the president has not done a good job so far. This presents a slight change from when the same poll was conducted in June when 54% approved of Biden while 43% disapprove.
Other polls show a similar picture for Biden, with Fivethirtyeight’s poll aggregator showing that the President currently has an average of 52.1% approval rating and 42.6% disapproval. Although these numbers are far better than those of President Trump at the same time of his first term (38.4% approval vs. 55.7% disapproval), they are lower than Obama’s numbers (55% vs. 39%) and both presidents managed to lose a substantial amount of seats during their midterm elections, something that surely hangs on the mind of Biden’s team.
Pollster Nate Silver, a famous (or infamous depending on who you ask) analyst of electoral data, said in an interview to ABC News that Democrats should not be comfortable with this lead, since historically it is usual for presidential approval ratings to go down as their term continues and as opposition parties tend to perform better than the incumbent during the midterms.
If Biden follows a similar path to his former boss Obama, then he could very well give the GOP a perfect chance to retake the House and the Senate in 2022. Furthermore, the tight margins in both houses leave Democrats little to no margin of error if they want to fend off a GOP victory in the midterms.
Supporters of the president might say that Biden could defy the historic trend and retain a stable trajectory in his approval ratings, which could give Democrats a fighting chance in 2022. After all, Trump’s poll numbers remained fairly stable during his whole 4-year term as a President, with neither his approval nor disapproval ratings changing very much.
Biden approval ratings on the issues
However, the picture gets a little bit more complicated once we start analyzing the data in detail and observe how are Americans evaluating their President in each issue, as respondents tend to give lower grades to Biden when asked specifically about how is he handling the issues. He especially suffers in issues like immigration, crime, or guns, while having mild numbers in things like his handling of the economy, climate issues, or education.
There is one issue, however, where Biden has managed to outperform his general approval number: his handling of COVID. According to the Politico/Morning Consult poll, 56% of respondents approve of the President’s response to the pandemic, which is slightly higher than his 54% general approval rating.
In fact, it is in this issue where Biden manages to get his highest approval numbers from Republicans. With 26% of them saying they approve in the President’s job in the issue, while in other issues the number is closer to the 10%-15% mark. Crucially, 54% of Independents also approve of the President’s handling of COVID, Biden also managed to get similar results in the issue of COVID months ago.
However, that is the only issue where Biden outperforms his general numbers. In issues like the economy (the top priority for most Americans according to the poll), national security, energy, and voting legislation his numbers are all below the 50 point mark.
In National Security, 45% of respondents approve of Biden’s job while 43% disapprove; in energy policy, 47% think he is doing a good job while 40% think he is not, and in voting legislation, he is also polling below the 50% mark.
Most remarkable are his numbers in his handling of the economy. While the American economy has had a quick recovery from the recession caused by the COVID pandemic, the public is evenly divided on Biden’s handling of the economy, with 47% approving and 45% disapproving.
This should worry Democratic strategists, if these are the numbers when the economy is relatively well, then the prospects of inflation or an unexpected downturn in economic activity are a Damocles sword over the heads of the Biden team.
Biden’s weak spots
There are three issues where Biden is underperforming: immigration, guns, and crime.
The poll shows that 50% of respondents do not like the job the president has been doing on immigration, a data point that comes at a time where the southwestern border with Mexico is seeing a record-breaking number of apprehensions this year. In this issue, republicans almost universally reject (83%) the Biden record, while a substantial amount of Independents (54%) also don’t think the president is doing a good job.
Biden has also received terrible numbers on the issue of gun policy, with 49% of those surveyed disapproving of his job performance and only 39% thinking he’s done a good job, with 52% of Independents saying they disapprove of the job of the President on the issue.
Another of the potential weak spots of the President is in the issue of crime. A YouGov/Yahoo News poll, also conducted in mid-July, shows that only 38% of the 1,500 surveyed think the president is doing a good job tackling crime, while 43% say Biden has done a bad job. Crime could become one of the key issues of 2022 if the current rise in violence in America’s cities continues. However, Biden still has some margin of error in this issue, as 20% of those surveyed have yet to form an opinion.
While Biden can feel mildly happy that his numbers are better than Trump’s, it would be foolish of him or the Democratic party to misunderstand this for overwhelming popularity, and Republicans will surely contest Biden’s record on the issues where he is currently laundering, whether that is Immigration, Crime, guns or the economy.