Published February 9, 2022
President Biden now sports nearly the lowest job approval rating of any modern president at this stage in his tenure, statistically equivalent to that of Donald Trump. What’s behind the calamitous drop? Is it events beyond his control, or is it Biden himself? The answer will determine whether he can turn things around.
History is not on Biden’s side. Nathan Gonzales points out in Roll Call that presidential job approval historically declines an average of eight percentage points before Election Day in the first midterm year. Trump is an exception, but even he only managed a one-point rise in job approval between February and November in 2018. Biden would need to increase his ratings by more than four points simply to match the low ratings that his Democratic predecessors, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, had before their party got walloped in the 1994 and 2010 midterms. That’s a pretty tall order.
It’s possible Biden might be able to pull it off if his poor ratings are primarily caused by events. His job approval rating was still above 52 percent as recently as late July. The decline started in earnest then, as the bad news of the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the swift Taliban takeover of that country dominated the news. His decline continued during the fall as inflation picked up steam and as the omicron variant of the coronavirus gained traction.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.