Right now with a 52.1% disapproval rate, the Democratic president will face midterm elections. Congressional control is at risk, experts say.
A year after taking office at a critical moment in US democracy, President Joe Biden faces a 2022 midterm election with his popularity at a low, risking losing control of Congress to the Republicans.
The Democrat averages 42.5% approval and 52.1% disapproval, according to aggregated data from specialist platform FiveThirtyEight. Only Donald Trump was even more unpopular at the end of his first year in office, with 40.2%.
“This unpopularity of his at the moment is mainly due to the perception that life has not become easier for Americans,” political scientist Daniela Melo, a professor at Boston University, Massachusetts, told Lusa.
“Biden came to the presidency promising to turn the page”, said the expert, referring to promises that the successor to Donald Trump would bring more political stability, a return to normality, a stronger and fairer economy, and a more respected America in the International plan.
“These promises collided with a reality in which there is a total disruption of Americans’ daily lives, polarization continues, Trump continues to be the most persistent and impactful voice within the Republican Party”, while “at an international level there has been a certain inability of the administration to predict the negative reaction to certain decisions”, said Melo.
This was the case with the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in August 2021, which coincided with the escalation of inflation and the peak of infections by the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Biden’s approval rating plummeted and disapproval soared, pushing his popularity into negative territory just seven months after his inauguration.
“He promised stability, but he does not have the necessary tools at his disposal to really be in control of the factors that will bring that stability”, analyzed Daniela Melo.
The political scientist stressed that the president’s promises could hardly be fulfilled with such a short majority in the Senate: 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie for the Democrats, and two Democratic senators who often vote alongside the Republicans, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
“It is more the moment than the man. Any other president in Biden’s position would not have achieved many victories other than the ones he achieved”, Melo stressed, pointing to the legislative infrastructure package as an example. “Any other president would be here between a rock and a hard place.”
Such a low popularity rating at this point bodes ill for the party’s performance in the November 8 midterm elections, which will decide control of the two chambers of congress.
“This is definitely the defining year of the Biden presidency. The wave is negative”, said Daniela Melo.
However, the expert stressed that “a lot can still change” until the end of the summer and the evolution of the pandemic and the economy will be decisive to understand how public sentiment will translate at the polls.
Thomas Holyoke, professor of political science at California State University, Fresno, also considered that “it is still too early” to make predictions and that the evolution of the pandemic will be important.
With the rapidly spreading Ómicron variant, the United States has only 63% of two-dose vaccinates, and Biden’s corporate vaccination mandate—something many voters disliked—was blocked by the Supreme Court.
“Since the 1970s, Americans have had a growing distrust of their governments,” Holyoke said. “In the 1970s we had the Vietnam War and the Richard Nixon scandal, then in the 1980s Ronald Reagan told people that the government was the problem,” he recalled.
“As a consequence, a large portion of Americans don’t trust the government, regardless of who is in power,” he said. “This makes it more difficult for the US government to act in the face of something like Covid. There are too many voices launching counter-narratives.”
What the US electorate wants, said Daniela Melo, is a return to normalcy and greater purchasing power in a booming economy, which grew by more than 6% in the last quarter. “The problem”, she said, “is that the perception that the economy has stagnated is in force and this is accompanied by a great frustration that Americans feel with the pandemic”.
Characterizing the president’s unpopularity as “contextual”, the political scientist considered that the evolution of the situation will depend on the pandemic, inflation, and the reaction of the markets to the measures that the Federal Reserve will take from March to contain the rise in prices. In her view, inflation is the factor that most contributes to the perception that the economy is not doing well.
“These big issues that shake Americans’ daily lives remain beyond the presidency’s control. And they never really were,” she stated. “Any president, at this point, would have a serious problem with the approval rating.”
Source: with agencies