At the time of writing, and according to the realclearpolitics average, 37% of American voters approve of the job Joe Biden is doing while 57% disapprove of it. That makes Joe Biden the least popular president in recent times, and even less popular than Donald Trump at the same point in time into his presidency, when 42% approved of the job he was doing. Nate Silver recently showed in an overview that, after 18 months in office, Bill Clinton’s approval rating stood at 46% and Barack Obama’s at 47%.
This is important because in November, Americans will head to the polls in the midterm elections and elect all the members of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate. In the cases of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the party who held the White House lost the majority in the House of Representatives. In other words, based on history, it would almost take a miracle for Democrats to defend their razor-thin majorities in congress.
As a point of comparison, George W. Bush’s approval rating stood at 67%, and Republicans went on winning the elections in November. At the time, in November 2002, I was a student and intern in Washington D.C. and witnessed the get-out-the-vote drive of my Republican roommates.
Going back to Joe Biden, I happen to think that it was so far a reasonably successful presidency. He got a bipartisan infrastructure bill passed, the first gun legislation in ages, and a historic nomination to the Supreme Court. The job he is doing on Ukraine is, in my view, the best piece of U.S. foreign policy in decades.
So why is he so unpopular?
I think that there are two main reasons for his low approval rating. The first is political: inflation is the number one concern of voters, and it is politically extremely dangerous. As I have written in a previous piece, inflation is one of the few issues that affects literally each and every voter. Rising prices may not be existential for everybody, but everybody feels it.
The second reason is personal. Let’s call out the invisible elephant in the room: the presidency of the U.S. is ideally not a job for a 79-year-old man. During the election campaign, the focus was on Trump and everybody could project into Biden what they wanted to see in him. Now, the focus is on Biden, and every time he speaks, goes biking, or last week when he tested positive for covid, voters are reminded of his age. I wish him a speedy recovery, but I’m afraid that the pressure on him will only increase as politicos and voters alike will soon start to focus on the 2024 election.