Almost six in ten Americans disapprove of how Joe Biden is handling his presidency, with the majority of that group saying there is nothing Biden has done since taking office that they approve of. The finding, based on an SSRS poll conducted in January and February, highlights the nation’s entrenched politics at the start of the midterm election year, with little agreement across party lines on government priorities or how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the survey, the President’s approval rating has dropped across the board. Only 41% approved of the way he’s handling his job, while 58% disapproved, a significant drop from last year’s approval numbers. Only 36% of independents and 9% of Republicans supported it. Although his approval rating among Democrats remained at 83 percent, it had dropped from 94 percent late last summer. Biden also continues to have more ardent critics than ardent supporters: 41 percent of Americans strongly disapproved of his performance as President, compared to 15 percent who strongly approved. Some of the shift in Biden’s numbers can be attributed to a shift in Americans’ partisanship: Republicans and Democrats were roughly equal in the new poll, with fewer identifying as Democrats than in previous polls.
When those who disapproved of Biden’s overall performance were asked to name a single thing he’d done that they liked, 56 percent couldn’t think of anything. “I can’t think of a single thing he’s done that benefits the country,” one survey respondent wrote.
A smaller 26 percent of those who generally approved of Biden couldn’t think of anything negative to say about him. “I completely believe he has the best interests of the American people in mind,” another respondent wrote. “I believe he understands the gravity and importance of his job and is doing his best.”
Overall, Americans believe that the first year of the Biden administration has been a failure rather than a success, by a margin of 57 percent to 41 percent. In January 2010, Americans were roughly evenly divided on how to define Barack Obama’s first year as president. An 83 percent majority of Democrats said Biden’s first year was a success, which was higher than the 78 percent who said the same about Obama in 2010. However, only 35% of independents thought Biden’s first year was successful, compared to 44% who thought the same of Obama.
Over the last two months, the twin challenges of widespread inflation and a flood of coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant appear to have taken a toll on Biden’s popularity: Since early December, his approval rating for handling the economy has dropped 8 points to 37 percent, while his rating for handling the coronavirus has dropped 9 points to 45 percent. And few Americans have a lot of faith in Biden to handle the economy (18% said they had a lot of faith in his ability to do so, down from 30% in March 2021) or lead the country out of the coronavirus pandemic (25 percent had a lot of confidence, down from 42 percent last spring).
Americans are divided on how best to deal with the pandemic right now: 51 percent believe “it’s time to learn to live with the virus,” while 48 percent believe “stopping the spread of the virus must continue to be the highest priority.” The Omicron wave crested between January 10 and February 6, while the poll was being conducted.
Demographic divides on this question tend to reflect the partisan tilt within each group: women were more likely than men to say stopping the spread should be a priority, and White Americans were more likely than Black or Hispanic Americans to say it was time to learn to live with the virus. However, younger Americans, who lean Democratic, were more likely than seniors to believe it was time to learn to live with the virus.
Those who believe the United States should learn to live with Covid-19 were generally optimistic about the country’s ability to achieve that goal, with 69 percent saying they were at least somewhat confident the country could. Those who said the country should remain focused on stopping the spread were less broadly optimistic, with 53% saying they were not too or not at all confident the country could stop the spread.