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Biden’s popularity is only 39%, but still triples that of Congress

The U.S. president is heading into the November election with approval ratings close to their lowest point of his mandate

Biden’s popularity
U.S. President Joe Biden during Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.Ken Cedeno (REUTERS)
Miguel Jiménez

With a little more than five months to go before the November election, the approval ratings of U.S. President Joe Biden are still not improving. According to the latest survey published by Gallup, which has been measuring the opinion of American citizens about their presidents for decades, Biden’s job rating is 39%, close to their record low of 37%. But this low figure is still nearly triple that of U.S. Congress, which is only approved by 13% of citizens.

As is usually the case with new presidents, Biden began his term with relatively high approval ratings, in his case 57%, a level that he set in January 2021, as soon as he was sworn into office, and that was marked again in April of that year. Biden’s popularity began to sink with the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in the summer of that same year. Later, the high prices of gasoline and food, translated into the highest inflation in 40 years, the immigration crisis and other problems continued to erode his approval levels, which fell to 38% in July 2022.

The following month, the United States successfully completed an operation to kill Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone strike in Kabul, the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, its lowest in the last half-century, employment hit a record high above pre-pandemic levels, and Congress approved the Inflation Reduction Act, which included climate and fiscal measures and cuts to medical and pharmaceutical costs for part of the population. With these and other measures, the president’s approval levels began to rise again, but the trend did not continue upward.

Biden’s approval rating hit a low of 37% in April 2023. It rose above 40% again last summer, but following Israel’s attack on Hamas and Biden’s initially unwavering support for the Benjamin Netanyahu government’s response in Gaza, it plummeted back to 37% in October. That month, Biden’s job rating among Democratic voters went from 86% to 75% in one month, a record 11-point drop. At the time, Gallup strongly suggested that Democrats’ approval of Biden fell sharply following the October 7 Hamas attacks and Biden’s promise to fully support Israel.

Over the past four months, the index has hovered between 38% and 40%. The figure varies greatly according to party lines. In May, according to the Gallup poll, 82% of Democrats approved of Biden, compared to just 2% of Republicans. The most worrying data point for the president is that his popularity is also low among independent voters, who are not registered with either of the two major parties. Biden’s job rating has not been above 50% since June 2021. Among independent voters, his approval rating is at 34%, which at least is higher than last November’s low of 27%.

Biden’s approval rating, although weak, is still well above the historic low of 22% recorded by Harry Truman in February 1952, Gallup points out. Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all had approval ratings below 30% at some point during their presidencies. Neither Carter nor George Bush Sr. managed to be re-elected. The popularity of the Republicans Nixon and George W. Bush deteriorated in their second term and, after they left office, the Democratic candidate won the elections. This does not bode well for Biden, although the majority of voters do not like Donald Trump either.

Congress

Biden’s approval rating, however, is triple that of Congress, at only 13%. Congress is divided, with Republicans holding a narrow majority in the House of Representatives and Democrats holding a slim advantage in the Senate. Thanks to that composition, it has barely carried out any legislative projects. It raised the debt ceiling, approved budgets after several extensions and gave the green light to an aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, but beyond that, its achievements have been negligible.

The chaos seen in the House of Representatives during the current term, including the motion to vacate House speaker Kevin McCarthy, seems to have hurt its image. During the survey period (May 1-23), Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene filed her motion to remove House Speaker Mike Johnson, a fellow Republican, for his role in passing the international aid package, although that move failed thanks to Johnson’s support from the Democrats.

Congressional job approval has been below 20% since July 2023 and hit a low of 12% last February. Respondents of all political persuasions are unhappy with Congress. Only 17% of Democrats approve of the way it is handling its job, a figure that falls to 13% among independents, and 9% among Republicans.

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