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How partisanship is already hurting Biden in the polls


The average nonpartisan poll since Biden’s term began puts Biden’s net approval rating at a similar +19 points.

What’s the point: The good news for Biden is that he starts in the green. His ratings are already higher than former President Donald Trump’s, who never once had an approval rating reach 50% in any live interview poll in the entirety of his term.

But while Biden’s initial net approval rating is higher than Trump’s ever was, it’s nothing to really write home about. Biden’s ratings show that, despite his hopes, hyperpartisanship likely isn’t going away anytime soon.

Except for Trump’s, Biden’s opening net approval rating is the lowest on record since Harry Truman. Before Trump, the lowest previous, according to Gallup, was George W. Bush’s +32 points.

Biden’s continuing a trend of five of the lowest opening net approval ratings all occurring in the last six presidencies.

The issue for Biden isn’t so much that his approval rating is historically low. His average approval rating of 55% is only about 10 points lower than the average of all presidents. It’s about equal to the average of presidents since Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Biden’s problem is that he starts off with a higher disapproval rating than all presidents besides Trump. Biden’s average disapproval rating of 36% is significantly higher than the average of all presidents (12%) and even presidents of the last 40 years (21%).

One big cause is Biden’s simply getting less buy-in from the Republicans than perhaps he would hope.

He’s averaging just a 20% approval rating from Republicans in the average nonpartisan poll right now. No president before Trump, who had an approval rating of just 12% from Democrats, had less than 32% of the opposition party’s members approve of him.

The average first approval rating from the opposition party was 46% for all presidents and 32% for presidents in the last 40 years.

A big saving grace for Biden is that his average approval rating is 91% among Democrats. Biden’s approval rating with Democrats is higher than Trump’s (88%) was with Republicans in January 2017 in Gallup polling. This was something we saw a lot of in the pre-election polling in 2020. Trump did very well with Republicans, but Biden did even better with Democrats.

Moreover, Biden’s opening approval rating with Democrats is actually higher than any opening approval rating for a president with members of his own party than Gallup has ever measured.

Biden’s not stopping the polarization that appeared under Trump. He’s really just continuing it.

The gap between Biden’s approval rating among Democrats and Republicans (71 points) is nearly equal to Trump’s (76 points), which was the greatest on record. No other president before Trump had an opening gap greater than 56 points between the approval between Democrats and Republicans.

Perhaps the one truly normal thing about Biden’s first ratings is that he’s experiencing a honeymoon that’s in-line with what we’d expect. Since 1980, presidents have seen a boost from their net favorability rating immediately following the election to their first net approval rating of about +15 points. Biden’s right in-line with that with a jump from +5 points to now +19 points.

The big question for Biden is where does his net approval rating go from here.

Will Biden be like most presidents who traded within a fairly wide range? If so, the bottom could fall out — or he’ll prove to be significantly more popular than he is now.

Perhaps Biden will be more like Trump. Trump dropped off from his starting point, though by far less than most presidents after the initial honeymoon.

If Biden can continue Trump’s trend of staying fairly steady, he’d actually be in pretty good shape going forward. Biden would likely have a net positive approval rating during much of his presidency.


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