This Friday marked Biden’s first 100 days in office. It is an arbitrary milestone, but one the press has apparently adopted in order to engage in a ritualistic evaluation of the president's tenure in office:
Public opinion polls indicate the people think Biden is doing rather well. He has a 50-54% approval rating, depending on which pollster of aggregate you consult, and a nearly 60% rating with Independents — which almost matches Obama’s performance at this point in his presidency and is 20 points higher than Trump’s.
Biden’s key policy proposals are even more popular, getting 60 and 65% support in most public polls. I imagine his upcoming American Families Plan, which will provide tax relief, child care, and universal pre-K funding, among other things, will be similarly popular.
This raises an interesting question: What about Biden, or his agenda, is so much less popular than his stimulus-focused plans that it's dragging down his ratings?
I welcome speculation in the comments.
I imagine part of the answer is “he’s a Democrat,” which invites expressive responses from Republicans who otherwise approve of his agenda..
I think polarization and partisanship plays an important role. The ceiling of Biden's approval rating could simply be lower in the polarized era regardless of other factors. It is possible that Biden is maxing out his support among voters who would consider voting for him.
I hope you are having a great weekend,
Elliott, it probably stems from the very nature of polarization: a greater relevance of identity over policy (even economic policy) on the determination of political preferences.
If I ran the circus, I would create a situation that would require Tucker Carlson to announce on air on several occasions that he has been prevaricating, lying, pulling your legs all along, that Biden legitimately won the election, and that anyone who believes Tucker otherwise has been duped. That ought to change things a bit.
Along with the less popular positions that Biden holds, I think there are two things affecting this: (1) issues tend to be less polarized than party affiliation, and (2) cynics register disapproval of politicians even if they nominally support their agenda. I don't think much needs to be said on point 1, it seems like a fairly uncontroversial point–ballot initiatives and polls routinely indicate that some positions that are identified with one party (e.g. the $15 minimum wage is identified with Democrats) are much more popular than the party that advances it.
On the second point: As you said in your last post, because of partisan polarization the maximum approval rating Biden could reach is around 61%. That would seemingly imply there is a 7-11 point gap between his current approval rating and his theoretical max. But I think we need to include a cynics buffer (or cynic's buffer, if you prefer) of people who will just always register disapproval—even if they, on paper, appear to be in a group that could be won over—simply because they're cynical. When I talk to normies I'm always struck by just how many people have the mindset that all politicians are crooked, they don't actually care etc. etc. At least some of those people (who may still identify with a party!) will generally express disapproval no matter what. You also have people who are cynical for the opposite reason: they're so ideological that the messy world of real-life politics inevitably disappoints them, or they view any compromise as selling out (e.g. Bernie or Bust types).
I don't know how many people fall into this group of cynics (maybe there's some research you're familiar with on something like this?) but I'd wager it's at least a few percent. That could push Biden's approval ratings gap down to just a few percentage points if we take 54% as his approval rating. If we assume a higher rate, like 7-8% of people across all groups are cynics, that would basically wipe out the remaining Democrats that could be won over.
As this relates to the gap between Biden and his more popular positions, cynics are the type who register approval of certain positions (which are just value statements) at the same time they say they disapprove of the politician who holds them.
Hi Elliot - the other week you wrote: “ We need more people to look smartly and systematically at the accuracy of policy polls!” - where might one get involved in such an effort?