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Joe Biden is facing yet another major political crisis since assuming office on January 20, with the images of the chaotic Kabul retreat going viral on social media and being repeated all over cable news. Although the White House has tried to vehemently defend their decision, the GOP and even the mainstream media have criticized him for the Afghan debacle, and it appears that the American electorate is also punishing Biden for the botched operation.
The latest set of polls confirm that Americans have begun to dislike the president, a troubling sign for a Democratic Party that managed to keep all elected levers of power by an extremely slim margin. According to the poll aggregator of FiveThirtyEight, the president is experiencing his lowest approval numbers since he assumed office in January this year, with 45% of Americans disapproving his job performance and 48.9% approving it.
Although the President’s numbers have started to gradually diminish over the last few weeks, it does seem as the disastrous situation in Afghanistan has played a factor in the increasingly negative numbers for Biden, with the average disapproval numbers growing more than one point since the fall of Kabul last week.
The negative effect of the Afghan retreat in Biden’s numbers can also be observed in the individual polls. An Ipsos poll conducted between August 13-15th had Biden with a 53% approval rating, the same pollster made a survey between August 18-19th and Biden’s approval had gone from 53% to 46% and his disapproval had gone to 49%, his approvals also went down from a 54%-46% margin in a Morning Consult poll in August 13-16th to a 50%-47% difference in August 16th-19th.
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Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the crisis
Although the President’s decision to initiate the American withdrawal from Afghanistan was broadly popular at the moment it was announced, the events in Kabul appear to have changed many minds. A Morning Consult poll showed that support for the American withdrawal fell from 69% when the decision was announced in April to 49% after the fall of Kabul.
Another poll, this time conducted by YouGov/The Economist also found out that Americans have somehow changed their views regarding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, with the public almost equally divided on the issue of the Afghan withdrawal was a mistake as 33% said they thought it was a mistake and 36% said they did not think so.
What both polls (and apparently Americans) do agree is that Biden’s handling of the crisis has been far from stellar. With 51% of those asked by Morning Consult saying they disapproved of the President’s job in Afghanistan, and the YouGov survey showing that 42% disapproved his job while only 30% thought he was doing a good job.
Americans sour on Biden, view him as a weak leader
Democrats might try to comfort themselves into thinking that this week’s terrible numbers might only be temporary and that Americans will quickly forget the Kabul debacle. Although this might very well be true, the poll numbers also show a worrying set of numbers for Democratic strategists as they started preparing for the 2022 midterms.
According to a YouGov poll, Biden’s job approval numbers are currently tied at 44%, a significant decrease from the same poll in late July-early August, when the President enjoyed a 49% approval rating. Most worryingly, for Democrats at least, is that the President’s approval numbers within the Hispanic community (a key voting bloc) are also alarmingly low, with 44% approving of his job and 40% disapproving.
To add fuel to the fire, the American people are also having some serious questions about the ability of the president to tackle other issues. The approval over his handling of the pandemic (which had been his strong point) has decreased to 47%, while the disapproval has grown to 42%, his numbers on the all-important issue of the economy have also decreased significantly with only 43% of respondents approving of his job, while 42% disapprove.
The Kabul fiasco has also impacted the image of the Biden administration on International Affairs, with 47% of those respondents saying they feel “uneasy” over Biden’s ability to handle international crisis and only a mere 36% saying they feel confident about his abilities to deal with unforeseen foreign troubles.
Alarmingly for the Democrats is the fact that a majority of Americans now see the President as a weak leader, with 54% of respondents saying that they think Biden is a weak leader while only 46% think he is a strong one, with 53% of Hispanics think that the President has not been a strong leader during his time in the White House.
Foreign policy has rarely been the decisive issue on which voters make up their minds, after all, George H.W Bush lost reelection barely a year after the great American victory in the Gulf War. However, if the voters’ image of Biden is permanently shaped by his handling of the Kabul retreat, then Democrats should be ready to sound the alarm bells.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.