During Joe Biden’s fifth quarter in office, which began on January 20 and ended on April 19, an average of 41.3% of U.S. adults approved of the job he was doing as president. The latest average is essentially unchanged from the 41.7% in his fourth quarter but significantly lower than his first three quarterly averages.
Biden enjoyed majority approval ratings during his first two quarters in office. A trying late summer and early fall 2021, marked by a surge in new coronavirus cases, the troubled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and rapidly increasing gas prices and inflation, led to a decline in Biden’s public support. His job approval ratings in eight Gallup polls conducted since September have ranged narrowly between 40% and 43%.
Gallup’s latest update on Biden’s job approval, from an April 1-19 survey, finds 41% of Americans approving and 56% disapproving of the way Biden is handling his job as president.
Biden’s Fifth Quarter Average Is Second Lowest
From a historical perspective, Biden’s fifth quarter average is lower than that of any prior elected president, except Donald Trump. Trump averaged 39.1% during his fifth quarter. Although their fifth quarter average approval ratings were at least five percentage points higher than Biden’s, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama join Trump and Biden in averaging less than majority approval at this stage of their presidencies.
Six of the 11 post-World War II presidents elected to their first term in office had fifth quarter averages above 50%, including three who were above 70%.
Job Approval Ratings Usually Don’t Improve Before Midterm Elections
Biden’s low job approval rating stands as a significant threat to the Democratic Party’s chances of maintaining its slim majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Typically, unpopular presidents’ parties have lost seats in midterm elections, with the number of seats lost usually much higher for presidents with job approval ratings below 50%.
While it is possible that Biden’s job approval could increase between now and the fall elections, doing so would go against the historical pattern for second-year presidents.
To date, only one president — Trump — saw any gains in his job approval ratings between the fifth and seventh quarters in office. The seventh quarter concludes Oct. 19, just weeks before the midterm elections. In Trump’s case, his job approval increased only marginally, from 39% to 41%, and not nearly enough to alter the dynamics of the election that saw Republicans lose 40 House seats and control of that chamber.
The prospects for significant improvement in Biden’s job approval ratings before the fall midterms seem dim not only because of the historical record for second-year presidents, but because his approval ratings have been stuck in the low 40s for eight months. Even if they improve, they would have to do so by at least 10 points to be in the 50% range historically associated with the president’s party avoiding big seat losses.
As things stand, given the strong link between presidential job approval ratings and how the president’s party performs in midterm elections, Biden appears likely to be governing with Republican majorities in one or both houses of Congress next year unless his rating dramatically improves.
One way Biden’s numbers could improve is for him to regain support he has lost among key Democratic constituencies such as young adults, Black adults and Hispanic adults. Biden would also need to improve his standing among political independents in the hopes that would persuade them to vote for Democratic rather than Republican congressional candidates in this fall’s elections.