Biden’s Unpopularity

He isn’t very popular.

President Joe Biden, Oval Office, 4 April 2024
Official White House Photo

Via Reuters: Biden’s approval rating falls to lowest level in nearly two years-Reuters/Ipsos poll.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s public approval rating this month fell to its lowest level in almost two years, tying the lowest reading of his presidency in a warning sign for his reelection effort, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

The four-day poll, which closed on Monday, showed just 36% of Americans approve of Biden’s job performance as president, down from 38% in April. It was a return to the lowest approval rating of his presidency, last seen in July 2022. While this month’s drop was within the poll’s 3 percentage point margin of error, it could bode poorly for Biden as he faces off with Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 5 presidential election.


The poll laid out Biden’s weaknesses as well as a few strengths. The state of the economy was seen as the top issue, picked by 23% of respondents as the most important problem facing the country. Some 21% saw political extremism as the top issue and 13% picked immigration.

As commenter Andy notes, this is the biggest answer to the question of why Biden is tied (or behind) Trump in many polls. Indeed, one does wonder what the numbers would look like if Trump was not also a well-known and unpopular figure.

UPDATE (James Joyner): Just to underscore the above, and add context, here is the trendline since the beginning of Biden’s presidency as measured by the FiveThirtyEight aggregate:

RealClearPolitics has roughly similar data if you prefer their version. Aside from the first few months, Biden has been underwater. (Trump was underwater for all but the first few days of his term.)

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CSK says:

    I remember distinctly when Trump boasted about his 36% rating: “Almost 40%, which is not bad!”

  2. Mikey says:

    This, from today’s Guardian, explains a lot. It’s simply beyond depressing.

    Majority of Americans wrongly believe US is in recession – and most blame Biden

    Nearly three in five Americans wrongly believe the US is in an economic recession, and the majority blame the Biden administration, according to a Harris poll conducted exclusively for the Guardian. The survey found persistent pessimism about the economy as election day draws closer.

    The poll highlighted many misconceptions people have about the economy, including:

    55% believe the economy is shrinking, and 56% think the US is experiencing a recession, though the broadest measure of the economy, gross domestic product (GDP), has been growing.
    49% believe the S&P 500 stock market index is down for the year, though the index went up about 24% in 2023 and is up more than 12% this year.
    49% believe that unemployment is at a 50-year high, though the unemployment rate has been under 4%, a near 50-year low.
    Many Americans put the blame on Biden for the state of the economy, with 58% of those polled saying the economy is worsening due to mismanagement from the presidential administration.

    A lot of that is driven by Republicans who are simply no longer conversant with reality, but nearly 40% of Democrats polled also believe the economy is in recession. As I said, depressing.

  3. Kylopod says:

    Indeed, one does wonder what the numbers would look like if Trump was not also a well-known and unpopular figure.

    Whenever I hear Dems wringing their hands about why someone so obviously awful as Trump has so much support and may win again, I think that in a sense that’s looking at it the wrong way. The more pertinent question is why a president as unpopular as Biden is doing as well as he is. Fear and hatred of Trump is having a beneficial effect on Biden’s chances. It might not be enough, but the fact is that Biden is in many ways defying political gravity due to Trump. It’s what enabled him to have one of the best midterms ever for a sitting president, and it may pull him across the finish line this November, which–putting Trump aside–would be an unprecedented feat. I know this isn’t the message Dems want to hear, but it is the reality of what’s most likely to save them.

  4. Scott says:

    Is there anyone popular?

    As I pointed out in yesterday’s piece “Why Biden Gets No Credit for a Good Economy” , Trump’s numbers are almost as bad.

    And he is not actually working .

    Go figure.

  5. steve says:

    I think the other side of this is that he is not exactly inspiring for a lot fo people. Quiet competence doesnt count for a lot, especially when you can spread a lot fo false info to undercut the results of that competence.


  6. EddIeInCA says:

    I’ve spent the last several weeks driving for a law firm, delivering confidential documents between firms, small mom and pop businesses, and courthouses. I’ve come in contact with many, many people outside of my normal bubble. People love to chat, and give their unsolicited opinions.

    Here’s a consensus of what I’ve been told by lots of ordinary working class citizens:

    1. Housing costs, especially rents, are out of control in Los Angeles. Moreso than the historic normal of housing costs. (As someone who has a 2.75% mortgage with a monthly payment of less than $2000 per month, I was stunned to learn of $5600 rent for a two bedroom apartment in the mid-Wilshire area, and $3500 for a studio apartment in Glendale). They blame Biden. Seriously. Even the liberal ones blame Biden.

    2. Gas prices. Everyone is complaining about gas prices. Here in LA, it’s between $5.50 and $6.50, with some gas stations showing $7+ per gallon. I have an electric car, so I don’t pay attention to gas prices at all. But everyone else does. They blame Biden for the high cost of gas.

    3. Immigration. A surprising number of people in LA really see immigration as a serious problem, despite our very diiverse population. They see the homeless encampments and, for some odd reason, blame immigrants from south of the border for the homeless problem. They blame Biden.

    Anecdotes are not evidence, but these three issues keep being spouted to me by complete strangers as I interact with them.

    It’s depressing.

    [Went to moderation because of mistyped email, so system didn’t recognize as a previously-approved commenter.]

  7. Modulo Myself says:

    I was watching the Celtics-Pacers game at a bar in an upscale Tulum-like surf-town Costa Rica, and some older American with a much younger woman asks me where I’m from. Tell him New York, and he inquires if I’m the last one left. It took me a moment to understand he was talking about crime and the city being terrifying. It was like being asked about my favorite monocle/top hat combo. Then I laughed and said I wish. Turns out though that both of his daughters live there (though maybe not on great terms with pops).

    No stretch to think that this guy, by the look and sound of him, is going to vote for Trump. In any normal experiment, this is the voter Biden should have been snatching up. I.e., wealthy enough to travel for pleasure and hedonistic enough to go for somebody younger, just another American doing fine in a economy people are selling as good. Biden followed the rules. He reached out to the center, tried to push through a draconian immigration bill, made sure that any reforms of the justice system died off. He spent a lot of political capital doing things that might have worked had the people he had attempted to reach lived real lives. But all he got was a disillusioned left/liberal/young base and a bunch of assholes who think that the decreasing crime rate is a lie.

  8. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Let’s look at why:

    Person A is really good at what they do. So much so that there is no drama. Amazing stuff happens nearly every day, but downplayed because… well, it’s his job.

    Person B is a serial fantabulist. Nothing is good unless they do it, everyone is inferior to them, and with everything he says life will be better for EVERYONE once he is in charge. In short, he believed that farts raspberry marshmallows and dandelions, and those around him vehemently agree, because not to agree would diminish their perceived power.

    So, what catches more interest: Mowed grass or a circus? An empty intersection or a car crash?

    Polls say: Car Crash.

    But the real question is: Come Tuesday Nov 5th, will people want to be IN the car crash?

  9. DK says:

    Americans are not the sharpest tools in the shed. It’s Harry Truman, all over again.

    Historical hindsight apologized to Truman and will to Biden.

  10. DrDaveT says:

    To a first approximation, people believe what they are told by sources they trust. Doesn’t this fact explain essentially everything here?

  11. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Mikey: Fascinating. I too, have a long-term mortgage with a low rate (I think it’s about 3%). I don’t worry about gas prices, I think they are lower here in the Bay Area, which surprises me a bit. I don’t blame Biden for an upsurge, I blame how the oil companies have used the relative isolation of the West Coast to cartelize the gasoline business. I’m working on getting an EV.

    And the homeless. I have had issues with squatters at my old house. I thought I had sold it to a developer (who was going to bulldoze it), but the deal fell through after 2 years. So I had to reclaim it from squatters. By and large I’m not super angry with them, they were just trying to keep out of the rain. But the thing is, not a one of them were anything other than Anglo. Not a single “immigrant”. One of them, who I have some identifying information on, appears to have family in Oklahoma that is rather wealthy, in fact.

  12. Kylopod says:


    It’s Harry Truman, all over again.

    What makes me uncomfortable with that analogy is that it’s the go-to one for every losing campaign. I recall its being referenced by everyone from Dukakis to McCain.

    I also think 1948 was fundamentally a tortoise-and-hare situation. Dewey was so absolutely assured of his win he basically didn’t bother campaigning. Truman, on the other hand, was a workhorse, traveling around the country, meeting with voters, giving speeches. It’s my understanding that part of how the modern presidential campaign developed was by learning the lessons of how Truman came from behind to his unexpected win. No major-party candidate today neglects campaigning to the degree Dewey did. As you’ve pointed out before, the notion that Hillary ignored the Rust Belt is somewhat of a myth–and even then, nobody was accusing her of failing to campaign altogether; it was just a question of where she focused her resources.

    Trump is being kept off the campaign trail by the trial, and his campaigns have always been a dumpster fire anyway. Biden, meanwhile, is setting up offices in all the swing states and doing the ground-work he needs to win. That said, I don’t believe Trump is in any way repeating Dewey’s mistake. I think he knows damn well he might lose, and is attempting to do what he believes is necessary to prevent that outcome. I have said before that it’s ridiculous to accuse the Dems of 2016-level complacency, but the fact is that I don’t think either side is being complacent. Whatever the outcome of this year’s election, we’re not headed toward a shock remotely comparable to either 2016 or 1948.

  13. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Well, that’s weird. I thought I was replying to Eddie, not Mikey. I wonder what happened.


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