Biden’s approval rating is where Reagan was ahead of 1982’s midterms: report
On Tuesday, September 20, Gallup published its latest survey on approval for Joe Biden’s presidency. Biden, according to Gallup, now enjoys 42 percent approval, which is a 2 percent decline from the 44 percent approval he had in August but is better than the 38 percent approval he had in July’s Gallup survey.
Biden’s less-than-stellar approval ratings have been discussed in countless articles on the 2022 midterms, but the devil is in the details. First, Biden has enjoyed higher approval ratings than House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom get reelected time and time again but are, according to pollsters, unpopular nationwide. Second, weak approval ratings aren’t necessarily a death sentence for a presidency; Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all had weak approval ratings during parts of their first terms but enjoyed decisive reelection victories.
In an article published by Newsweek on September 21, journalist Ewan Palmer emphasizes that Biden is, from an approval standpoint, where Reagan was ahead of the 1982 midterms.
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“Biden's 42 percent approval rating in the September of a midterm election year is the same as Reagan's was in 1982, as well as Bill Clinton's in 1994,” Palmer explains. “Biden is two points ahead of Donald Trump's approval rating ahead of his first midterm election, but three points behind Barack Obama's 45 percent approval rating in September 2010 and Jimmy Carter's in 1978. The two-time President Reagan's approval rating would fall to as low as 35 percent in the months after his first midterm election, before climbing to around mid-50s in late 1983 and hitting the 60s by 1986.”
Weak approval ratings for a U.S. president are not written in stone. Approval ratings can improve, although not necessarily in time to prevent the party that controls the White House from taking a pounding in the midterms.
After Reagan’s landslide victory over President Jimmy Carter in 1980’s presidential election, the Democratic Party was feeling quite demoralized. But the blue wave that Democrats enjoyed in Congress in the 1982 midterms made them feel much better about their prospects. Democratic strategists, following that 1982 blue wave, were hoping to make Reagan a one-term president. In 1984, however, American voters were feeling much more optimistic than they were in 1982, when the U.S. was suffering from a painful recession — and 1984’s presidential election was brutal for Democrats. Reagan won 525 electoral votes compared to only 13 for the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Walter Mondale.
In a statement, Gallup’s Megan Brenan noted, “Biden's current 42 percent rating is generally in line with five of his seven predecessors' ratings at the same point in their presidencies. In those midterm elections, the president's party lost between 15 and 63 congressional seats. The presidents whose parties suffered greater losses generally had much-larger seat majorities in the House of Representatives than Democrats do now.”
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