A majority of Americans, about 55 percent, approve of President Biden’s work to date, while about 39 percent are against it. That’s pretty good numbers for a president in this polarized era. And for the Democrats to retain control of the U.S. House and Senate next November, Biden will likely need to maintain his approval ratings in that environment. This is unlikely, but possible, given that some major changes are taking place in American politics.
Why should we focus on the President’s approval ratings when we think about the halfway point of next year? For two reasons. First, we don’t have a lot of other data to rely on yet. For most of the House and Senate races, it is not even clear who the (non-incumbent) candidates will be. Most respondents do not yet ask respondents what is known as the general election question: “If the next election were today, would you vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate?” And while generic voting has in the past provided a reliable rough preview of possible interim results, “rough” is the key word here. FiveThirtyEight’s average of the general polls before 2020 indicated that Democrats would have a significant advantage in last year’s house races (a vote share of about +7 percentage points, about 50 to 43), but the end results were tighter (about +3 points51 to 48).
Second, and more importantly, the president’s approval ratings over the past few years have been a decent indicator of what’s going to happen in the medium term. In the last four cases (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018) the incumbent president’s disapproval rate was higher than his approval, and in all four cases the president’s party lost a sizable block of house seats. (The Senate results are not quite as dependent on the approval of the president.) The last time the president’s party won seats in the House of Representatives in a mid-term election was in 2002, when George W. Bush was after September 11th Received sky-high ratings, 2001, terrorist attacks. So when we talk about the pattern of the presidential party almost always losing congressional seats in the medium term, part of what seems to be happening is that the American electorate becomes something disaffected by a president after having elected or re-elected him (or seeking to review his power) and then support the opposing party’s congressional candidates.
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And president approval ratings become even more predictive as American politics become increasingly partisan and president-centered. The presidencies of Obama and Trump suggest that the vast majority of voters will bow down either the Democrats or the Republicans and To approve presidents from their own party and disapprove of the opposing party’s president.
And these predominantly party-political approval numbers mean a predominantly party-political vote: more and more voters are casting ballots for candidates from the same party in presidential and congressional elections. In November 2018, then-President Trump had an approval rate of 42 percent, compared to a disapproval rate of 53 percent. Democrats won roughly 53 percent of the vote in the US National House of Representatives, mostly off People who disapproved of Trump. Republicans slightly surpassed Trump’s approval, winning 45 percent of the House’s vote, mostly from people who approved of the president.
On election day in 2020, 45 percent of Americans voted for Trump, compared with 53 percent who opposed it. Biden won about 51 percent of the population’s votejust like … did House Democrats (so something under Trump’s disapproval). Trump won almost 47 percent, similar to the House Republicans (48 percent) and again just above his approval rating. In both 2018 and 2020, the President’s approval / rejection was followed closely with the House’s referendum. And because congressional and presidential elections are both so partisan now, we have a record number of house districts – 16 – that the member is a member is not from the same party that the district supported for president.
Of course, there is no guarantee that the close link between the President’s approval ratings and the House results will remain. Perhaps Trump has directed American politics specifically towards him, so some voters will approve of Biden’s work performance in next year’s election but still support GOP congressional candidates. A major threat to Democrats in the 2022 period is that Potential of differential participation – Republicans voting at higher levels than Democrats, with Conservative voters being more motivated to vote against Biden-leaning Congressional Democrats than Liberals in order to essentially uphold the status quo. It did so in 2018, when people voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 agreed with slightly higher rates than those who supported Trump in 2016. So it is possible that Biden’s approval rating of American adults on Election Day 2022 was 55 percent, and of people who actually vote it was a few percentage points lower.
And even if the President’s approval ratings remain closely linked to the overall vote in the House and Biden retains a rating in the mid-50s that doesn’t guarantee Democrats will win the house. We had a few choices in the on line Now that overall polls have slightly overestimated support for Democratic candidates and politicians and underestimated support for GOP candidates. That doesn’t mean the same thing will happen again in the medium term, but it’s easy to imagine that the eventual electorate in 2022 will be a little more Republican than Biden’s approval rating suggests. And Democrats have very little room for error. Republicans have A built-in head start in house races right now – not just because of GOP gerrymandering, but also because Democratic voters live disproportionately in urban areas, while Republicans are more dispersed in suburban, suburban and rural districts. So a 50:50 vote gap would almost certainly give the GOP control of the house.
In addition, Republicans have much more control over the restructuring process than Democrats, so they can draw even more favorable lines ahead of next year’s elections. Republicans in many states are trying too limit the ability to vote by liberal-minded Americans or to have their votes counted. So it’s possible that even a Democratic advantage of 52 to 47 percent in the overall population vote in house races would result in a Republican-controlled house.
Put simply, if Biden could maintain an approval rating in the mid-50s, it would be of great help to the Democrats – especially the House candidates in swing districts and the Democratic Senate candidates in Competitive States such as Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And if Biden could get his approval rating into the high 50s, it would be hard to imagine Democrats losing the House or Senate.
How likely is it that Biden will keep or improve on his current approval?
It’s difficult to say. History would suggest that in November 2022, Biden is likely to be less popular than it is today, but we’re not sure how much of this story is true.
The pre-Trump pattern of presidential approval has usually been for a new president to take office with relatively high ratings (at or above 55 percent) and then those numbers gradually refused during his first two years. But that pattern could be over. Trump never had a big honeymoon: he started with around 46 percent approval and his ratings stayed pretty stable throughout his presidency. Biden started with around 53 percent – but higher than its direct predecessor not as high as other current presidents. (Another interesting point: Biden’s approval rating is almost the reverse of its predecessor: Trump’s approval was mostly in the low 40s, and his disapproval was mostly in the mid-50s; Biden’s approval was high in the mid-50s and his disapproval high in the 50s 30s.)
It is plausible that no matter what Biden does, his approval ratings will fall ahead of halftime, as presidents did before Trump because voters tend to tarnish the incumbent. Alternatively, it is plausible that we are in a new normal in American politics, with a large GOP bloc, a slightly larger Democratic bloc that includes the majority of Americans and voters who are really involved in their party, so nothing is them fundamental dynamics really changed. This would explain why Biden’s approval rating is basically the same as Trump’s disapproval rating and why Biden’s disapproval is so close to Trump’s approval.
Finally, it is plausible that what actually happens in Biden’s presidency is commonplace. The President and his team are trying to implement a strategy that they believe will maintain its popularity: Improving the economy and coping with COVID-19 effectively, Sell these achievements to American voters and to weaken the partisan difference in Washington. Republicans also have a strategy: Keep tensions between the partisans in Washington;; attack Biden on political issues like immigrationwhere it is unlikely to achieve clear results; and highlight issues likely to lead to voters being divided competing racial and cultural attitudesHow the controversy over the recruitment of some Dr. Seuss books because of racist images.
“Of course, real events affect Biden’s approval ratings,” you might say. Sure, but that hasn’t been the case lately. Economic conditions correlate less with the approval of the president than in the past. And as I mentioned earlier, none of the incredible events in Trump’s presidency (the Mueller report, Trump’s 2019 impeachment, the COVID-19 outbreak) changed his approval ratings significantly until the January 6, 2021 uprising in the U.S. Capitol, which caused a remarkable slump.
So keep a close eye on Biden’s approval rating. That should be an indication of how well the Democrats will do in next year’s election. But it is probably also an indication of how American politics work more generally today. Is America in a stubborn partisan war in which Team Blue is a slight but clear majority and any election is very tight? Or maybe neither Team Blue nor Team Red have a majority, and instead both are around 45 percent, with a fairly large and meaningful block of people either swinging between parties (often against the president’s party) or voting at all during the mid-term (mostly from the president’s party)? Or can the president and his actions make meaningful changes to the political dynamic, creating a 55-45 or 57-43 electorate if viewed as effective, or, alternatively, a 43-57 electorate if viewed as particularly ineffective? We’ll see in the next more than 19 months.