President Biden entered the White House last month with a broadly positive approval rating — but well shy of the two-thirds of Americans who expressed support for his former boss, Barack Obama, when he took office 12 years ago.
In fact, Biden’s net approval rating is lower than that of any incoming president since the dawn of modern polling, except for his predecessor, Donald Trump. It’s just another clear sign that we’ve entered a new era of partisanship: Media fragmentation and the hard-line politics it has helped foster may make it impossible for any leader to become a true consensus figure.
But it also bears noting that Biden’s approval rating is basically a reverse image of Trump’s. In addition to being loathed by Republicans and embraced by Democrats, he’s firmly in positive territory among independents — who had consistently disapproved of Trump’s performance.
A Monmouth University poll out last week found that 54 percent of Americans gave Biden’s performance positive marks, including nine in 10 Democrats and a plurality of independents, who approved by a 17-percentage-point margin (22 percent hadn’t yet formed an opinion). But among Republicans, his numbers were upside down. Just 15 percent approved, and 70 percent disapproved.
This windfall of early support may strengthen pressure from members of his own party to move decisively on legislative priorities — whether through the reconciliation process or by doing away with the filibuster — without much concern about projecting an image of bipartisanship.
“People claim to like bipartisanship in surveys, and I’m not going to roast Joe Biden for giving it the old college try, but at the end of the day when bipartisan majorities — even Republicans — support more action to confront the coronavirus, the onus is on Joe Biden, and he will be judged by voters on whether he delivers relief,” said Sean McElwee, a founder of Data for Progress, a polling firm that advises Democrats in Congress.
“Democrats have a majority,” he said. When it comes to other policy areas, such as racial justice and climate change, he said, “They need to deliver on that majority.”
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