On the eve of his one-year anniversary in office, President Joe Biden finds himself at the lowest polling point of his tenure — a worrisome omen for Democrats desperately trying to hold onto their House and Senate majorities this fall.
That’s according to new poll numbers from Gallup that peg Biden’s approval at just 40% with 56% disapproving. It’s the lowest measure so far by Gallup and well below his 48.9% polling average over the past year in the organization’s surveys. At this one-year mark, that average is about where Bill Clinton was and ten points better than Donald Trump, but that’s a very small on-the-bright-side note.
Those numbers are broadly consistent with CNN’s poll of polls, which averages the last four national polls to give a better (and broader) sense of where Biden stands. As of Wednesday, Biden’s approval in the latest poll of polls was 41% with 54% disapproving.
The top-line numbers are concerning enough for Biden. But, dig into where Biden has lost support and things are even more worrisome.
That erosion has come primarily from political independents, generally regarded as the swing votes in any election. More than six in ten independents approved of how Biden was handling the job in January 2021. Now that number stands at a paltry 33%.
Democrats, too, have soured somewhat from their once stratospheric approval of the President. Biden enjoyed 98% approval among Democrats in the early days of his term, but that number has softened — down to 82% now.
It doesn’t take a political genius to understand what’s going on here. The combination of the ongoing Covid-19 surges (Delta and then Omicron) has raised questions about the early belief that Biden and his team were bringing the pandemic under control. The late summer pullout of American troops from Afghanistan played out in disastrous fashion, raising questions about the President’s command of US foreign policy. Supply chain issues and rising inflation have put a crimp in the average American’s daily life.
Legislatively, Biden has failed to pass the Build Back Better Act — which contains much of his first term domestic agenda — through Congress. And an effort to pass a voting reform bill seems doomed as well.
Add it all up and it spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e for Biden’s party heading into the midterms.
The history here is daunting. Over the last century, the president’s party loses an average of 30 House seats in the midterm elections. And, those numbers are even worse when a president is as unpopular as Biden is right now. Through the 2014 election, the average seat loss for presidents in that pickle was 37 seats — that number is even higher now given that Republicans lost 40 seats in the 2018 midterms.
History, at least at this point, looks to be repeating itself headed into this fall. What’s most frustrating for Democrats — and Biden in particular — is that so much of what comes next is out of their hands. Biden’s approval numbers seem to track closely with Covid cases; the higher they go, the lower his approval numbers fall. And because this is a pandemic caused by a regularly mutating virus, Biden has almost no control over what comes next. Which, unless something major changes, is not going to be good for Democrats.