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Biden’s year-one disapproval rating is sky-high, historically speaking

October 26, 2021, 10:00 PM UTC

When it comes to presidential politics, no metric is more closely watched than the sitting president’s approval rating. The more Americans who back the president, the more political capital that the commander-in-chief wields. But once it drops off, it rarely bounces all the way back.

That’s why so many Democratic officials are fretting about the recent drop in President Joe Biden’s approval rating. As of Tuesday, just 43.5% of the nation supports the job he’s doing—down from 53% on his first day in office, according to FiveThirtyEight.

But there’s arguably a metric that is just as important: a president’s disapproval rating. That represents the share of voters who disapprove of how the president is doing. For Biden, the metric is flashing red. Last week, that disapproval rating for Biden rose above the all-important 50% threshold for the first time. As of Tuesday, it sits at an all-time high of 50.9%.

That’s a historically high disapproval rating for a president who is not even at the one-year mark. At the same point in their first term, Presidents Jimmy Carter (30.1%), Ronald Reagan (35.3%), George H.W. Bush (22.9%), Bill Clinton (44.2%), George W. Bush (9.1%), and Barack Obama (41.7%) all had much lower disapproval ratings. The only recent president with a higher disapproval rating at this point in his tenure was the man Biden beat in November: Donald Trump, at 56.7%.

During his first few months in office, Biden maintained a fairly solid level of popularity. That period was when he issued executive orders to help ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations and signed into law the politically popular $1.9 trillion stimulus package in March.

But that popularity quickly faded this summer. In August, the Biden administration received public backlash after its military withdrawal from Afghanistan failed to go as planned. At the same time, the Delta variant caused COVID-19 cases and deaths to soar in some states. Not to mention, supply chain troubles worsened, causing even more price hikes for household goods.

Where do things go from here? Historically speaking, it’s common for a first-term president’s approval rating to fall and disapproval rating to rise during the first year in office. But in subsequent years, the results are all over the place. In the case of Clinton, his popularity rebounded a bit in the ensuing year. Meanwhile, G.W. Bush’s popularity declined as Sept. 11 receded in the rearview mirror. Trump was in neither camp: His popularity, for the most part, flatlined after year one.

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