Five numbers that tell the story of Biden's presidency
From inflation to illegal immigration, Americans not only disapprove of Biden's job performance but also think the country is on the wrong track.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
- figures from AAA
- ongoing surge
- publicly available data
- Summit of the Americas
- low 40s
- similar result
Last March, President Biden hosted a meeting with historians at the White House. They discussed several topics, including how Biden could and should push through historic legislation to change America, the kind of reshaping that comes around maybe once in a generation.
They also discussed Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At one point, Biden reportedly said, "I'm no FDR, but ... "
Biden had reason to be bullish. He recently had passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which included a host of non-pandemic measures supported by Democrats, such as a bailout for struggling union pension plans.
Biden was also pursuing a series of historically expensive legislative packages that ultimately became condensed into his signature legislation, the Build Back Better Act, a mammoth social and climate spending bill that later failed to pass the Senate.
After the March meeting, presidential historian Michael Beschloss told Axios that Biden may be this century's analogue of FDR and Lyndon B. Johnson "in terms of transforming the country in important ways in a short time."
Biden's approval rating at the time was well above 50%, even hitting 60% in some polls. The economic forecast was improving as consumer confidence soared. And, yes, articles comparing Biden to FDR and LBJ became commonplace in mainstream publications, with some commentators asking if Biden could join them "in the Democratic Party's Pantheon."
In short, Biden was in a strong position.
Today, however, the story of the 46th president has drastically changed. Here are five numbers — and some of the American faces behind them — that show how a presidency unraveled.
U.S. inflation hit its highest level in more than four decades in May, the Labor Department said Friday.
The Consumer Price Index, which measures what consumers pay for goods and services, increased 8.6% in May from the same month a year ago.
The monthly increase was the highest since 1981 and was driven by sharp spikes in the prices for groceries and energy. However, inflation hit virtually every consumer category — from shelter, to used cars, to airline fares.
"Inflationary pressures were seen nearly everywhere," Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, told the Wall Street Journal.
According to experts who spoke to Just the News, soaring inflation was caused by Biden's economic policies — namely too much spending — combined with the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates near zero while continuing to print money.
Of course, the numbers don't tell the full story of inflation. Behind each stat on inflation are real people struggling to make a living and provide for their families.
As real wages drop and living costs rise, 83% of Americans say they are experiencing some hardship due to higher prices for everyday items, according to recent polling. And most Americans expect inflation to get worse.
$5.01 per gallon
For many Americans, the most devastating impact of inflation has been felt at the gas pump.
The U.S average price for a gallon of regular gasoline reached $5.01 on Sunday, according to the latest figures from AAA.
Gas hit a new record almost every single day over the past 30 days.
Diesel prices, likewise, have reached record highs and show no signs of dropping, affecting a range of industries from trucking to fishing and boating.
As with other areas of inflation, there are faces behind the numbers.
"When you see gas go up 40 cents in one day, I have to decide whether to buy gas or buy groceries," Ohioan Cindy Sullivan told ABC affiliate Channel 9 WCPO. "It's very very frustrating for the people on limited incomes."
Sullivan isn't alone. Lisa Hovis, a resident of Marquand, Mo., told Fox 2 News that she routinely drives to a St. Louis hospital for radiation treatments for cancer.
"It costs me anywhere from $100 to $120 a week just to do that," she said. "With the grocery prices too, you know it’s really bad."
234,088 illegal border crossings
Beyond the economy, polling shows immigration is one of the most important issues to voters. And Democrats and independents, not just Republicans, are growing increasingly concerned about the ongoing surge in illegal immigration.
Since Biden entered office, there's been a sharp rise in the number of people who've crossed the southern border illegally. The figure reached about 2.4 million illegal border crossings from April of last year to this past April, the last month for which there's publicly available data and the month with the highest number of migrant encounters during the Biden administration at 234,088.
By comparison, there were just over 626,000 such crossings from January 2020 to January 2021, former President Trump's last year in office.
As with the economy, illegal immigration has real-world consequences. The Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida on Thursday arrested an illegal immigrant who was charged with fleeing a car crash that killed a 21-year-old North Carolinian.
The issue of migration was on the agenda at this week's Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. However, the presidents of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — all key partners of the U.S. in combating illegal immigration from Latin America — didn't attend in apparent snubs to Biden, the event's host.
Biden's approval rating reached an all-time low of 39%, according to a new Morning Consult poll. The poll also found his disapproval rating hit a new high of 58%.
Observers noted that Biden has a lower approval rating and a higher disapproval rating than Trump did at this point in their presidencies.
Other polls have similarly put Biden's job approval rating in the low 40s, a steep decline from this time last year.
Recent polling has also shown a strong majority of Americans disapprove of Biden's handling of the economy, gun violence, and immigration.
A new poll from Quinnipiac last week found that approval of Biden's job performance plummeted to 33%. More striking, however, the data shows just 22% of Americans ages 18-34, 24% of Hispanic voters, and 49% of black voters said they approve of Biden's job performance. Each of those demographics is a critical voting bloc for the Democratic Party.
A recent Gallop survey found that an astounding 83% of Americans were dissatisfied with "the way things are going in the United States at this time." Only 16% of Americans said they were satisfied.
This followed an NBC News survey which similarly found that 75% of Americans thought the country was "on the wrong track."
Just 21% of adults believe the U.S. is going in the right direction, according to a recent survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research.
And a Monmouth University survey from last month had a similar result: A stunning 79% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.
With inflation and political division raging, a new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll concluded the country is in a "pessimistic mood." Concern about the economy and lack of faith in government efficacy helped fuel the pessimism.
"Biden has, at last, kept his promise to unify the country — the vast majority of Americans agree this country is in real trouble," wrote pollster David Winston, president of The Winston Group and a longtime adviser to congressional Republicans.
As a political matter, these numbers and stories don't just affect Biden — they could potentially affect dozens of members of Congress in November.
Indeed, it's normal for the president's party to lose House seats in midterm elections. However, "losses tend to be much steeper when the president is unpopular," according to Gallup, whose polling shows presidents with job approval ratings below 50% see their party lose an average of 37 House seats. Meanwhile, presidents with approval ratings above 50% see an average loss of 14 seats.
"Given that President Biden's job approval is underwater in dozens of districts he carried in 2020, any Democrat sitting in a single-digit Biden seat (or a Trump seat) is at severe risk and even a few in seats Biden carried by 10 to 15 points could lose — particularly in 'orphan' states without competitive statewide races driving turnout," David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report wrote recently — before the latest inflation and approval rating numbers.
In this political environment, Democratic pollsters and strategists are growing increasingly pessimistic, seeing major Republican gains as all but inevitable.
To make matters worse for Biden and Democrats in Congress, "election outcomes are more-or-less baked in" by the end of the second quarter of an election year, according to RealClearPolitics Senior Elections Analyst Sean Trende.
Of course, things can always change, but the numbers don't look good for Biden.
More importantly, behind those numbers are real people who are hurting. And each of them has a vote in November.