In Depth

How Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s approval ratings compare now

US president is being forced to deal with some of the same dynamics as his predecessor

Former US president Donald Trump has overtaken his successor Joe Biden in favourability ratings among American voters in what has been described as a “remarkable turnaround”.

The Times reported that, just eight months after the transfer of power, Trump has a positive rating of 48% compared with Biden’s 46% in a Harvard-Harris poll. Back in February, Biden had a 56% positive rating compared with Trump’s 43%.

The team that surrounded Trump during his reign also fared better than Biden’s circle. Some 55% of respondents said that Mike Pence was a better vice president than his successor, Kamala Harris, and 63% believed that Mike Pompeo was a better secretary of state than Antony Blinken.

A number of other surveys have discovered the same trend, with a poll in the “bellwether state” of Iowa putting Biden’s approval rating at just 31%, down from 43% in June.

Meanwhile, after Biden dropped to a new low of 43% approval in the monthly Gallup survey, down six points from August and 14 since his inauguration in January, the pollster pointed out that “among elected presidents since World War Two, only Trump has had a lower job approval rating than Biden does at a similar point in their presidencies”. 

Biden’s poor showings reflect the series of challenges he has faced, including “dismay among US voters over the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, surging numbers of coronavirus cases, migrants flocking to the Mexican border and deadlock in Congress, where the Democratic president’s ambitious plans are stuck in the mud”, said The Times.

Mark Penn, co-director of the Harvard-Harris survey, told the paper: “The mounting issues on all fronts have led to the surprise conclusion that Trump is now seen as being as good a president as Biden, suggesting the honeymoon is being replaced with buyer’s remorse.”

The Daily Mail agreed that voters “regret” voting for Biden after his “disastrous” exit from Kabul, “as well as revelations that the US mistakenly killed 10 people, including one aid worker and seven children, after a botched drone strike meant to kill an ISIS-K terrorist”.

Biden was elected “primarily because he held himself up as the antithesis of, and antidote for, Trump”, wrote Frank Bruni in The New York Times. “While many fresh occupants of the Oval Office are supposed to light a few scented candles and rid the Resolute Desk of the prior occupant’s stench, Biden was supposed to perform an exorcism. Never was the devil to be discernible in anything he did.”

But Bruni argued that Biden’s recent manoeuvres – especially pulling out of Afghanistan “without the degree of consultation, coordination and competence that allies expected, at least of any American president not named Trump” and his “return of hundreds of desperate Haitian migrants to Haiti” – are showing shades of his predecessor. 

“All in all, Biden is a far cry from Trump,” concluded Bruni. “Hallelujah. But that doesn’t mean that he’s untouched by Trump. And it doesn’t mean that he won’t find himself in similar places, because he’s navigating some of the same dynamics.”

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