President Joe Biden’s presidency is now six months old. You’d be forgiven if you didn’t realize how long Biden has been in office because Biden doesn’t generate anywhere near the same news interest (see Google searches) as his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, did. The lack of a topsyturvy first few months has translated to Biden’s approval rating. It’s been the most stable for any president since the end of World War II.
This, indeed, has been the story of the Biden presidency from a popularity standpoint. At every point at which I’ve checkedin to see how Biden is doing from a historical perspective, nothing seems to shake his approval ratings. Right now, Biden’s average approval rating rests at around 53%, no matter how you calculate said average. Over the course of Biden’s first six months in office, his approval rating has never risen above 55% or fallen below 51% in an average of polls. It was 53% in April and 54% in May.
To give you an idea of what a narrow lane Biden’s approval rating is in, you only need to look at history. Prior to Biden, the average range for post-World War II presidents in their first six months in office was 14 points. Biden’s range is less than a third of that. Nearly every other president saw his maximum and minimum approval rating differ by about greater than 7 points or more. (Lyndon Johnson’s gap was about 5.5 points.) Former President Donald Trump’s range was 10 points, and he was thought to have an approval rating that was historically stable.
Biden, though, hasn’t really picked up any new supporters since the election. His approval rating matches his vote share (51%) and favorable rating in the exit polls (52%) nearly perfectly. On the other hand, it’s been noticeable how Biden’s relative ranking on approval rating has risen the more time has gone on. Biden’s initial approval rating was near the bottom (only beating Trump) back in January.
Today, it beats Trump, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton’s. Barack Obama and George W. Bush’s approval ratings are within the margin of error of Biden’s approval rating. With increased polarization, Biden’s approval rating probably has a better chance of not significantly moving during his presidency than it may have in an earlier era.
On the polarization front, Biden has to be pleased that Democrats still seem to stand firmly behind him. It’s hard to find any reputable poll where his approval rating among Democrats is below 90%. In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, for instance, it’s 94%. No other president in the post-World War II era had an approval rating at this point within his own party as Biden has now. That’s not to say it’s all groovy for Biden.
The percentage of people firmly behind Biden seems to have shifted down a little bit. In the AP-NORC poll, for example, 25% and 26% of the public strongly approved of him in their last polls. In every poll of theirs before the most recent, more than 30% of the public strongly approved of Biden. Likewise, in an average of live interview polls, the percentage of the public who strongly approved of Biden went from 31% in both January and February to 27% now.
A big question going forward is whether this signals that Biden’s base may not be as strong as it appears at first glance. Another bad piece of news for Biden is that the opposition to him seems to have hardened. Biden’s disapproval rating is now in the low to mid-40s than the mid-30s it was back in January. This reflects more people going from undecided to disapproving of Biden.
If Biden was hoping that his efforts in the first six months of his presidency would bring over new supporters, he is mistaken — at least for the moment. Of course, Biden would probably accept not gaining any supporters, as long as he doesn’t lose any. His approval rating is still above water, and that’s certainly better than his predecessor.