‘It’s a tough time’: why is Biden one of the most unpopular US presidents? | Joe Biden
Joe Biden is ending his first year in office at a particularly bleak time for a US president who has promised competence and normality.
Much of his national agenda is stuck on Capitol Hill, hampered by members of his own party. The virus is raging again: Daily Covid-19 infections have reached record highs, hospitalizing more Americans than at any other time during the pandemic. The administration’s vaccination or testing mandate for large employers was blocked by the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority. Inflation is at its highest for nearly 40 years. Diplomatic talks have so far failed to pull Russia out of the brink of war with Ukraine.
After winning more votes than any presidential candidate in American history, Biden is now – just 12 months later – one of the most unpopular presidents in the country.
For months, Biden’s approval ratings languished in the mid-to-low 1940s, with a average approval rating by 42%. A Quinnipiac poll released last week found him in dire straits 33%, which the White House has fired as an outlier. Nevertheless, among his modern predecessors, only Donald Trump was less successful at this stage of their presidency.
The puzzle of Biden’s unpopularity has many pieces, according to pollsters and political analysts.
Biden came to power with grand ambitions: he promised to lift the threat of a deadly virus and usher in a new era of responsive governance and bipartisanship in Washington. A year into his presidency, Biden still faces an unrelenting pandemic, a still deeply divided nation, and a Republican Party that continues to embrace the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
“Anytime a president disappoints expectations, that’s a problem,” said Bill Galston, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, who also served as White House policy adviser to the former President Clinton.
Galston said the administration had “not done a good job of managing expectations” around Covid. In July, Biden balked at declaring “independence” from the virus, but was proven wrong by the arrival of the fast-spreading Delta variant.
Now, in the midst of a push from the Omicron variant, the president and his team are recalibrating. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, recently said Omicron would “find just about everyone.” Biden recently conceded that eradicating the virus was unlikely, but it was possible to “control” it.
That’s the case for swing voters who believed Biden would govern as a centrist bridge-builder at a time of deep division, Galston continued, and for Democrats whom Biden promised an ambitious legislative agenda despite holding steep margins. weak in Congress.
Sarah Longwell, a prominent Republican anti-Trump strategist, has observed a decline in support for the president among voters in focus groups she has convened over the past year. When asked to rate Biden’s freshman year, many voters she spoke to, including Democrats, gave her Cs, Ds and Fs.
The ratings, Longwell said, reflected not only their views on the president, but also shared discontent as the pandemic enters its third year and inflation continues to rise.
“There is an element that has nothing to do with Joe Biden,” Longwell said. “It’s just a tough time.”
Asked about Biden’s grim criticism, White House press secretary Jen Psaki offered a similar explanation.
“People are tired across the country. It has an impact on their way of life, their way of working. There are concerns for their children, their ability to experience joyful things in life like concerts, going to restaurants and seeing friends,” Psaki said. “We understand that.”
“The President knows that the best and most important action he can take is to continue to fight to bring the pandemic under control and also to reduce costs for Americans across the country,” she added.
Biden’s popularity began to wane as the Delta variant of Covid-19 spread across the country, dropping sharply after the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan in which 13 military personnel were killed in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport.
Although a majority of americans favored the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the desperate scenes in Kabul as the Taliban took control undermined perceptions of Biden as a seasoned foreign policy expert who would restore America’s standing on the world stage.
“The manner in which we left Afghanistan dealt a blow to the president’s general image of experience and competence, which had a lingering effect,” Galston said.
Historically, voters tend to punish the president’s party in the first midterm elections after a new administration comes to power. But defeats tend to be more abrupt when a president is unpopular. According to a Gallup poll, presidents with job approval ratings below 50% saw their parties lose an average of 37 seats in the House during the midterm elections.
Already the unexpected strength of Republicans last year in off-cycle elections in states Biden won by wide margins in 2020 — such as Virginia and New Jersey — has sent Democrats a stark warning of a dangerous future.
The findings suggest that the passion for resistance that drove Democratic victories during the Trump era has crumbled. Perhaps most alarming for Democrats was the electorate’s deep sense of unease. Despite a mass vaccination campaign and trillions of dollars in financial aid, voters feel worse about the state of the pandemic and the economy than they did under President Biden, according to a CBS News/YouGov investigation.
Few voters give Biden credit for investing a trillion dollars in the country’s infrastructure or for passing the US bailout, which sent checks to most Americans and lowered poverty rates.
“It’s an ironic situation where politicians are more popular than politicians, which is very rare,” said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic pollster. “Usually it’s the other way around.”
Capture more of this frustration, a Gallup poll published on Monday saw a dramatic shift in party preference over the past year, from a nine-point Democratic advantage at the start of 2021 to a five-point Republican advantage at the end of the year. The change follows the collapse of Biden’s presidential approval ratings.
That bodes ill for Democrats, leaving a narrowed window to deliver on campaign promises, from Build Back Better to voting rights and immigration reform.
Messy internal negotiations over Biden’s sprawling climate and social policy bill have overshadowed the policy, leaving the public with a cursory understanding of its contents and concern over its cost. The legislation remains in limbo after Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, announced he could not support the measure in its current form.
Amid the deadlock over his agenda, Democrats have grown disenchanted with Biden.
He is bleeding support from young voters unhappy with inaction on climate change, health care and student debt cancellation. Hispanic voters have lost faith in Biden’s handling of the pandemic and the economy, a red flag for Democrats after their move to Trump and the Republican Party in 2020. And support has been slip among Black voters, who were critical of Biden’s victory but were disappointed by the lack of progress on voting rights and police reform.
In an attempt to reset, Biden delivered a pair of searing speeches recently, in which he implored the Senate to pass federal voting rights legislation and accused opposing Republicans of standing with Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis.
While not all variables are within Biden’s control, Lake said there’s still plenty of time — and opportunity — to improve his position before the midterms in November. She said the president’s newly emboldened tone was a good start, one that would help “energize” Democrats, while signaling “strength” to wary independents.
“He’s in leadership mode now,” she said.
Democrats widely applauded Biden’s rhetorical shift, but some civil rights leaders and voting rights advocates boycotted the speech in Atlanta to express their disapproval of what they see as a belated push on an issue critical to their communities. and the functioning of democracy itself. In a statement, NAACP President Derrick Johnson said it was high time for the administration to “match words with deeds.”
Lorella Praeli, co-chair of the progressive group, Community Change Action, said voters need to see Biden fight on their behalf.
She urged the president to use every executive tool at his disposal to ease the financial pressures facing millions of Americans, like the cancellation of student debt, as he continues to push the path to Build Back. Better, Voting Rights and Immigration Reform.
Part of the challenge for Biden, she said, is convincing a demoralized public that “the future is always up for grabs.”
“Fighting for the people, delivering for the people and then making sure they know what happened,” she said. “It really is that simple.”