If it’s possible to sum up a presidency into a single number, that number is the president’s approval rating – or the percentage of Americans who approve of the job he’s done. That simple percentage could well determine the fate of an entire presidency.
For example, a high approval rating Assisting the Marshal for a President’s Agenda and to minimize his party’s losses in mid-term elections – not to mention the president himself winning re-election. However, a low approval rating can be election poison and mean that a president has lost the mandate to govern fully.
In short, that’s why at FiveThirtyEight we track the president’s approval rating (and his half-empty cousin, disapproval rating) in real time – first for former President Donald Trump and now for President Biden. According to our average of all Biden approval polls so far, Biden begins his administration with an approval rate of 53.9 percent and a disapproval rate of 35.1 percent. (If you’re only looking at polls from likely or registered voters – which you can do from the drop-down menu in the top right of the interactive menu – the numbers are similar: 54.4 percent agree, 36.0 percent disagree. Same goes for polls specifically of all adults: 53.2 percent agree, 31.6 percent disagree.)
These are strong approval numbers compared to what we’ve been used to over the past four years. But they are unlikely to stay that high, either, as presidents typically experience a honeymoon period of inflated popularity in the first few months of their term in office. As my colleague Geoffrey Skelley wrote on Tuesday, some experts believe that political polarization is making the president’s honeymoon a thing of the past, but at least for now, Biden seems to be enjoying one thing: he has a net approval rating of + 18.9 points ( Approval rate minus rejection rating) after winning the election only through 4.5 points.
These are a less impressive honeymoon than most previous presidents, suggesting that partisanship is taking its toll. As a reference, Bill Clinton had a net approval rating of + 36.3 points at this point in time in her presidency, George W. Bush a net approval rating of + 32.0 points and Barack Obama a net approval rating of + 39.3 points. Trump is the only president who started his administration with a lower net approval rating than Biden: +2.0 points on January 27, 2017.
Though Biden’s approval rating is somewhat on par with Clinton, Bush, and Obama, his disapproval rating is much, much higher, reflecting the built-in hostility many Americans already have for him. (You can compare Biden’s approval rating, disapproval rate, and net approval rating with previous presidents all the way back to Harry Truman by scrolling to the bottom of our interactive section.)
How can we combine dozens of consent rating surveys into a single number? It’s not an easy average! We use an empirically tested, weighted average that takes into account survey quality and uncertainty. It’s the same method we used to average Trump’s approval rating, and it’s similar to the approach we take in our election forecasts and other poll averages. Here is a more detailed explanation.
First, our tireless team of survey researchers gathers everyone national survey on the approval rating of the president; We do not ignore lawfully conducted scientific surveys (this is because we do not want to be able to make subjective judgments about how “good” a survey needs to be to be worthy of inclusion), although we do assign them different weights (more on that in a moment). You can view these individual surveys just below the main graph on the approval ratings page and download them from the link at the bottom of the page.
(A quick note on housekeeping: sometimes pollers publish numbers for the president’s approval rating among different populations – for example, all adults versus registered voters versus likely voters. In this case, by default, we use the result that represents the broadest range of people – that is, adults on registered voters, registered voters on likely voters. However, as mentioned earlier, we also have versions of the average that calculate the president’s approval rating only for adult surveys or only for voter polls.)
Next we determine how much weight each poll should give in our average. First, surveys conducted by respondents with higher FiveThirtyEight poll scores – a letter rating that measures how accurate and methodologically sound respondents are – are given more weight. Second, surveys with larger samples count more. Finally, polls from respondents who rate the approval rate very often (i.e., more than once every 20 days) are weighted down so that no respondent has too much influence on the average. The survey rating, sample size and final weight of each survey in our average are shown in our list next to it.
From these weighted averages, we then compute a trendline of the President’s approval and disapproval ratings over time using local polynomial regression – Basically, draw a smooth curve over each data point. (But not too slick – you don’t want the average to stop responding to moves in the polls. We choose our slickness settings based on the historically best predictions of future presidential approval and disapproval in polls since 1945, which is visual turns out not to look very smooth at all.)
But wait! The first trend line we calculated is not what you see on the page. Instead, we use the initial trendline to determine whether a given pollster’s polls are consistently better or worse than the weighted average for Biden – in other words, if the pollster has a “home effect”. Polls by pollsters who systematically overestimate or underestimate Biden are then adjusted to remove this home effect. For example, Republican-leaning pollster Rasmussen Reports has an anti-Biden house effect (and had a pro-Trump house effect) that needs to be considered when evaluating its polls. Our model has adapted its accordingly recent poll That gave Biden a 48 percent approval rate and a 48 percent disapproval rate, a 50 percent approval rate and a 43 percent disagreement. The adjusted approval and rejection ratings of each survey are displayed in the right column of the Approval Tracker’s list of surveys, just after the raw, unadjusted numbers of the survey.
From there we just flush and repeat: the adjusted polling numbers are used to calculate a new trendline which is used to calculate new adjusted polling numbers which are used to calculate Another new trend line – and so on. The bottom line, once the cycle is complete, is the main approval and denial rating chart that you will see in our interactive program. And you can use this chart to review not only Biden’s average approval and disapproval ratings as they are today, but also how they were at the end of each day during his administration. (Note that these daily reviews are based on surveys released not necessarily surveys until that date guided Until that date; We’re not going back and recalculating the past few days average as more data becomes available.)
You can also download Biden’s Average Approval Rating for each day of his tenure, as well as each poll that goes into the calculation, by clicking the appropriate links at the bottom of the page. This document also provides estimates of the upper and lower boundaries for Biden’s approval and disapproval ratings, which are represented in the interactive area by the shaded green and orange areas around the main trend lines. This represents the fact that our average approval rating is uncertain: both polls and our average have a margin of error.
We calculate this uncertainty by measuring how well our approval rating estimates for past presidents (all the way back to Truman) have predicted future approval ratings polls. The things that widen the confidence intervals (i.e. things that make us less certain) include a lack of surveys, a high level of disagreement in the surveys we conduct, and great volatility in the long-term approval rate of one President. The things that make the confidence intervals narrower include lots of surveys, highly consistent surveys, and a very stable long-term average.
We set the width of our confidence intervals so that 90 percent of future surveys fall within this range. And we even offer a preliminary forecast of the direction in which the average values will develop. Toggle the switch labeled “Today” to “4 Years” in the lower right corner of the graphic to display it.
Since the approval rates have tended to return to the mean in the past and also deteriorate slightly over the course of a president’s tenure, we expect Biden’s approval rate to decrease and his rejection rate to increase (as shown by the dotted lines in the graph). However, as you can see, the further into the future you go, the greater the 90 percent confidence interval for agreeing and disagreeing. This means that there are a variety of possible outcomes for Biden’s long-term popularity. Even in times of intense polarization, circumstances and actions can affect the president’s approval rating, leaving Biden’s political future at least partially in his own hands.
That sounds like a good reason, if we tell ourselves, to bookmark our biden approval tracker and check it out frequently. If you have any questions about our methodology, comments on the interactive surveys or any missing surveys we need to add, please email us at [email protected]