But nearly a year into the helm, Biden has been overwhelmed by long-term polarization. He has the lowest approval ratings of any opposition party at this point in his presidency for at least 68 years, while having one of the highest approval ratings in his party.
To put this in perspective, look at the average president since the end of World War II in early December of his first year as president. The 10 elected presidents (i.e. not Harry Truman in 1945, Lyndon Johnson in 1964 or Gerald Ford in 1974) had an average approval rating of 41% in the opposition. Biden’s 35 points lower.
Biden’s low approval among Republicans makes complete sense when looking at recent presidents’ trends. The three lowest approval ratings with the other party ahead of Biden have come in the previous four presidents, and the trend over that time period has been downward.
These include Bill Clinton (23%), Barack Obama (18%), and Donald Trump (7%). (The notable exception is George W. Bush, who had a 77% rating after the September 11 attacks.)
On the other hand, Biden’s approval rating among Democrats reached 90% in the most recent Gallup poll. This is 6 points higher than the 84% average for presidents with their party at this point. It is also the second-highest approval rating for a president at this point among his own party ever in the voting era. Only George W. Bush, with 98%, did better.
The gap between Biden’s approval rating between his party and the opposition is a staggering 84 points. This is the largest Gallup amount ever recorded at this point in the presidency.
The average 43-point gap between the percentage of each party that approved of the president against Biden is about half what we see in him.
As with Biden’s low approval in general, he can’t escape the new reality of American politics when it comes to the gap in how parties see him.
The three biggest gaps in party approval ratings ahead of Biden are also three of the four presidents before him, and the trend is toward a wider gap in that timeframe.
These include Clinton (55 point gap), Obama (64 point gap) and Trump (74 point gap).
The large gap in Biden’s approval among the parties may be almost directly related to partisan views on the economy. The economy is the number one issue for voters today, and Democrats and Republicans see it through very different lenses.
In that month of 2009, Democrats had a score of 64.5. This makes a difference of 16.2, which is relatively small.
This month, Democrats have a score of 88.4. This gives a gap of 50.6, which is about three times the gap in 2009. A big difference like this is extremely rare and has only happened recently. In August 2018, there was a 50.8 gap between Democrats and Republicans in the consumer sentiment index.
The fact that Democrats and Republicans see something like the economy so different shouldn’t really come as a surprise for all we know.
Still, the fact that Biden was unable to stem the deepening political divide over these various measures is remarkable. Unlike a lot of recent political figures, he continues to bring people together. So far he has failed in that attempt.