President Biden‘s eroding poll numbers have been a major story line in the political world for nearly three months.
And with the presidential approval rating a much watched indicator of how his party will perform in next year’s midterm elections – when the Democrats will fight to keep their razor-thin majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate – each drop in Biden’s numbers is likely to induce more anxiety in Democratic circles.
The president currently stands at 43% approval and 51% disapproval in an average of the latest national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. While that’s nothing for Biden to brag about, it’s better than his predecessor in the White House. Donald Trump stood at 40% approval and 55% disapproval in an average of the polls at this point in his first year in office.
But Biden trails his two most recent Democratic predecessors.
Barack Obama stood at 52%-43% on this date in 2009, and Bill Clinton was just above water, at 48%-45% in late October of 1993. Republican President George W. Bush was at 88% approval and 9% disapproval in October of 2001, as the country briefly tossed aside partisanship and united in the wake of the horrendous 9/11 terrorist attacks.
While Bush’s approval ratings eventually fell from the stratosphere, they remained healthy throughout the 2002 midterm election year – as the nation fought the war on terror in Afghanistan – and the GOP made minor gains in both the House and Senate.
But Clinton and Obama didn’t fare nearly as well. Both presidents’ approval ratings slipped into negative territory by the time the midterm campaigns heated up, fueling massive Republican waves in the 1994 and 2010 midterms. And Trump’s negative numbers didn’t improve during the 2018 midterms, when the Democrats stormed back to capture the House majority.
Will history repeat itself in 2022?
“Biden’s declining ratings on the economy must be a major concern for the White House,” Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News poll with Democrat Chris Anderson, highlighted. “Historically, bad economic news spells trouble for the incumbent party in the midterms.”
Shaw was pointing to Biden’s 39% approval on handling the economy in the latest Fox News national poll, which was conducted Oct. 16-19. The president’s approval on the economy plunged 11 points from the previous Fox News poll, which was conducted a month ago. The drop comes amid a rise in inflation, which has fueled a jump in gas and food prices.
Biden’s approval rating hovered in the low to mid 50s during his first six months in the White House. But the president’s numbers started sagging in August in the wake of Biden’s much-criticized handling of the turbulent U.S. exit from Afghanistan and following a surge in COVID cases this summer among mainly unvaccinated people due to the spread of the highly infectious delta variant as the nation continues to combat the coronavirus, the worst pandemic to strike the globe in a century.
The president’s flagging numbers were also compounded by the latest surge of migrants trying to cross into the U.S. along the southern border with Mexico, as well as the rise in consumer prices.
Alarmingly, the drop in the president’s approval appears to be coming from two groups that helped fuel the blue wave in 2018 and Biden’s defeat of Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
Biden’s approval among independent voters dropped from 43% in September to 36% now – and he sank nine points among suburban women – from 59% in September to 50% this month.