It’s been bugging me for the last few months when people note that Biden is less popular than Trump at this time in his presidency. It’s nominally true, of course. You can see the data on FiveThirtyEight’s tracker. But I think it gives the wrong impression.
Comparing Biden and Trump
The real question is how a single number for popularity hides reality. So let’s compare polling at the recent nadir of Joe Biden’s approval: July 2022:
- Total: 38%
- Republican: 5%
- Independents: 32%
- Democrats: 78%
In July 2018, these were Trump’s numbers:
- Total: 43%
- Republicans: 90%
- Independents: 38%
- Democrats: 8%
I don’t have the data for the partisan breakdown. But if I assume it is one-third each, the totals are very close: 38.0% for Biden and 44.9% for Trump. So I’m going to make that assumption. It is at least close.
If Democrats were the authoritarian followers that Republicans are, Biden’s numbers would go up substantially. If we assume that 90% of Democrats approved of Biden, his approval rating would have been 42%. Not quite as high but certainly within the margin of error.
As a Democrat, I can say that I’m pretty much always unhappy with my elected representatives and I would tell that to pollsters. But there is no doubt that I would still vote for them. So I don’t think Biden was ever as unpopular as he appeared.
Biden’s Recent Bounce
Of course, Biden’s poll numbers have increased substantially recently:
- Total: 44% (+6)
- Republicans: 4% (-1)
- Independents: 40% (+8)
- Democrats: 81% (+3)
The main thing to notice here is that Democrats are, on brand, unwilling to admit success. We are the “Yes, but…” party. It’s independents who are driving his approval up.
It’s not statistically significant, but still interesting, that all the good news from and about Biden, has caused his approval among Republicans to go down. This isn’t surprising.
The Republican Party base is made up of authoritarian followers and all their favorite “news” shows only push the negative narrative harder when there’s good news. I see this all the time on Twitter with conservatives repeating the same old talking points that are months out of date.
Where We Stand
The bottom line is that Biden is not doing that bad. That’s especially true when you consider how the mainstream (you know, “liberal”) press behaves. It really wanted to turn student debt into a negative thing but that seems to have failed. And I saw ABC News refer to the one-year anniversary of the”chaotic withdrawal” from Afghanistan. It’s like a drum beat: must find things to complain about!
And yes, the media was very harsh with Trump. But they looked for every opportunity to find the good in what he did. It was a common joke on Twitter to highlight the most recent pundit to say, Trump became president today.
But it’s interesting that no one ever said that about Biden. They don’t need to. But if there were any question, they wouldn’t be falling over themselves to do it. Mainstream journalism reserves its handicap for Republicans, who are generally about +13.