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Nearing 100-day milestone, Biden's low-50s job approval stuck far below historical norm

After running as moderate, president is governing as "Trojan horse for this radical left-wing agenda," said 2016 Trump pollster John McLaughlin.

Updated: April 28, 2021 - 8:36am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

As President Joe Biden approaches 100 days in office, his job approval ratings hover just above 50%, placing him behind almost all of his recent predecessors at the milestone traditionally marking the end of the beginning of U.S. presidential administrations. 

"The fact he's only in the low 50s right now is a really bad sign for Joe Biden," says pollster John McLaughlin.

Three months into the job and preparing to make his first address to a joint session of Congress, Biden is polling lower than any modern U.S. president at the same stage, except Gerald Ford and Donald Trump. Ford's early numbers were weighed down by his pardon of his disgraced predecessor Richard Nixon. Trump entered office amid an unremitting torrent of allegations — since debunked — that his campaign had colluded with Russia to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.

The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Biden with approval ratings in the low 50s range and disapproval in the low 40s. The average approval rating for the past 14 presidents polled at this point in their terms is 66%, according to ABC.

Pollsters and pundits alike will spin Biden's ratings in different directions, but McLaughlin says that based on his 3 1/2 decades in the industry, the president's numbers are a dark omen for his party's short-term success. During a recent interview on "Just the News AM," he said he doesn't "think there's any question" that Biden's mediocre numbers have set Republicans on track to reclaim not just the House of Representatives in 2022, but the Senate as well.

"He's taken what should have been very popular issues — COVID relief, infrastructure — that Americans overwhelmingly support and turned those into radical left-wing pieces of legislation," said McLaughlin, Trump campaign pollster in 2016. "Republicans can't wait to get into election season and talk about some of the things that are in those bills ... expanding the welfare state, tax increases, basically open borders. That's not where the American people are right now."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday downplayed concerns about the president's relatively low approval numbers. "These polls show what we have long known, that this president came into office during one of the most divisive moments in modern history," she said.

"We know that getting through the height of the divisiveness in this country is going to take some time, and that is reflected in these polls," Psaki added.

But Biden is stoking that "divisiveness," counters McLaughlin, by governing as a progressive despite running as a moderate.

Biden "is literally the Trojan horse for this radical left-wing agenda," said McLaughlin. "And despite what the national media and the Democrats may tell you, that's just not where the American people are right now." 

McLaughlin cites Biden's eroding support among political independents as a key indicator of a changing national mood. While most independents, he says, have been leaning left over the last few years, data from the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll suggests that a significant shift is underway, as only 47% of independents now approve of the president's performance, and 45% say he is too liberal — a figure up from 21% one year ago. 

After the president's address Wednesday to a joint session of Congress on his 98th day in office, political attention will begin turning to the 2022 midterm elections. With a slim majority in the House, and a working majority in the Senate only by virtue of the vice president's tie-breaking vote, Biden is opting to push an aggressively left-wing agenda with limited political capital.

Independents "are leaning Republicans, and it's happening way quicker than it did during the Obama administration," said McLaughlin. "And we all know what happened during those midterm elections.

In the 2010 "wave" election, Republicans recaptured the House with a 63-seat pickup, gained seven Senate seats and 6 governorships, and made sweeping gains in state legislatures across the nation.

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