With just five months under his belt as president, Joe Biden has begun to feel the inevitable withdrawal of goodwill that often accompanies the honeymoon days of any new presidency. That this traditional grace period has lasted longer than the usual 100 days is most likely a result of media fascination and an ebullient population glad to be free of COVID lockdown. But the salad days are over, and the pollsters are hungry.
Monmouth University polling gives the president an approval rating of just 48%. This is significant not only because it marks a low point in a fairly steady decline in popularity but also because poll collators regard Monmouth as a gold standard. FiveThirtyEight.com considers it the only “Grade A” poll of the last two months. But what do the numbers really suggest?
Blow by Blow
According to Monmouth, “The president gets a positive rating from 86% of Democrats (down from 95%), 36% of independents (down from 47%), and 19% of Republicans (up from 11%).” So his overall approval is down 9% with his own party and 11% from independents. In fact, the only positive result he received was from Republicans (+8%). Do the numbers suggest that the bump from GOP voters is because Biden’s presidency so far has not been as radical as this group originally thought? This could explain the relative loss of support from Democrat voters also.
Another poll, this one from Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa, gives the president just a 43% approval with 52% disapproving. Back in March, the same pollster awarded Biden a +3% approval. So what happened?
With largely positive media coverage of the commander in chief’s overseas adventures, it may be his domestic agenda that is tanking the figures. Consider the recent furor over voting law reform. Cracks are starting to appear in the hitherto reasonably united Democratic Party front opposing an ID requirement to cast a ballot – something that has long been used as a stick with which to beat the opposition. Failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate and electoral reform advocate Stacey Abrams recently seemed to do a full 180 on her previous stance that voter-ID laws are discriminatory and racist. Prominent news outlets were quick to ignore the apparent volte-face; instead, it was described as an “evolution” of policy.
Another Monmouth poll found that eight out of ten respondents want some form of voter ID at the ballot box. That figure includes 91% of Republicans, 89% of independents, and even 62% of Democrats. And although the president himself has yet to comment publicly on the issue, his party suddenly seems keen to embrace the more popular view.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
By positioning his administration against such a unifying idea, the president would be made to look both out of touch and reckless regarding voter integrity. The right to vote has been a hard-won battle for many, and the idea that either fraud or maladministration may nullify an individual’s vote is anathema to the American public. Perhaps it is avoiding this particular reality that has so tarnished the president’s once-lauded approval numbers.
Read more from Mark Angelides.