Biden ran on bringing people together. He’s failed so far.
But nearly a year into his administration, Biden has been overwhelmed by the long-term trend of polarization. He sports the lowest approval rating among the opposition party at this point in a presidency in at least 68 years, while having one of the highest approval ratings among his own party.
To put this in perspective, take a 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% among the opposite party. Biden’s is a full 35 points below that.
Biden’s low approval among Republicans makes complete sense when looking at the trend line of recent presidents. The three lowest approval ratings with the other party before Biden have come during the four previous presidents, and the trend within that time span has been downward.
These include Bill Clinton (23%), Barack Obama (18%) and Donald Trump (7%). (The notable exception was George W. Bush, who had a rating of 77% following the September 11 attacks.)
On the other hand, Biden’s approval rating among Democrats came in at 90% in the most recent Gallup poll. This is 6 points above the 84% average for presidents with their own parties at this point. It also happens to be the second highest approval rating for a president at this point among his own party ever in the polling era. Only George W. Bush, at 98%, was doing better.
The gap between Biden’s approval rating among his own party and the opposition party is an astounding 84 points. This is by far the largest Gallup has ever recorded at this juncture of a presidency.
The average gap of 43 points between what percentage of each party approved of a president before Biden was about half what we see with him.
As with Biden’s low approval overall, he hasn’t been able to escape the new reality of American politics when it comes to the gap in how the parties view him.
The three widest gaps in approval rating by party before Biden also were three of the four presidents before him, and the trend has been toward wider gaps within that time frame.
These include Clinton (55-point gap), Obama (64-point gap) and Trump (74-point gap).
The large gap in Biden’s approval between the parties can be linked almost directly to partisan views on the economy. The economy is the number one issue for voters right now, and Democrats and Republicans see it through very different lenses.
During that month in 2009, Democrats had a reading of 64.5. This made for a difference of 16.2, which is relatively small.
This month, Democrats had a score of 88.4. This made for a gap of 50.6, or about three times the gap in 2009. A wide difference like this is extremely rare and really has happened only recently. In August 2018, there was a gap of 50.8 between the Democrats and the Republicans in the index of consumer sentiment.
The fact that Democrats and Republicans view something like the economy so differently really shouldn’t be surprising given everything we know.
Still, the fact that Biden couldn’t stop the deepening political divide on these different measures is notable. Unlike a lot of political figures recently, he ran on bringing people together. He has so far failed in that endeavor.