Why Is President Biden’s Approval Rating So High?

I think that Zachary D. Carter has the wrong end of the stick in his piece at Slate, musing over why President Biden’s approval rating is so low:

In January of 1980, Jimmy Carter had been in office for three years, and the economy was terrible. Cumulatively, consumer prices were up more than 32 percent since he had entered the White House, and they had been rising steadily for more than 18 months. The unemployment rate was on the rise, after averaging 6.3 percent across his time in office. Wages, adjusted for inflation, had been falling for a year, gas prices were surging, and the interest rate on a typical home mortgage was over 15 percent. Things were very bad, and getting worse.

In the most preposterous corners of American economic discourse, Biden’s economy is still being compared to Carter’s, even though by every available metric, the 1970s were in a miserable league of their own, and today’s economy is among the most prosperous on record. Biden isn’t just clearing the low bar set by the Carter administration, he’s besting every other leader in the developed world, with the United States enjoying stronger wages, lower inflation, and better job growth than any nation in the G7, and its best labor market in at least half a century.

It’s interesting that he should characterize Lawrence Summers as “preposterous”. Hasn’t Dr. Summers been consistently and persistently critical of President Biden’s economic policy? To assess the validity of the comparison all you need do is compare the price of gasoline in January 2021 ($2.25/gallon) with the price today ($3.47). You could go through a similar exercise for a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, a pound of hamburger, your automobile insurance, etc.

The reality of being president is that presidents get blamed for what happens during their terms of office (“their watch”) regardless of whether they’re own actions were responsible and far from being the return to normalcy (so to speak) on which Candidate Biden ran, he has presided over the fastest increase in inflation in the last 40 years, the start of two wars in which we are embroiled if not actually at war, more deaths due to COVID-19 than in the previous three and a half years, and more migration across our southern border than during his predecessor’s term.

I could go on. Keep in mind that Mr. Biden ran for president twice before (in 1988 and 2008) and was rejected soundly by Democrats in the primaries. I would submit that he was elected this time around because just enough people in just enough places saw him as better than Trump.

Consequently, I think that rather than asking why President Biden’s approval rating is so low he should be asking why is it so high? His RCP Poll Average is 39.8% Clearly, he has significantly more favorable press coverage than his predecessor experienced. Why else?

14 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    GDP has been good, UE has gone way down, LFPR is at record rates adjusted for age, new business formation and investments are way up, new big factories are coming on line after being promised by his predecessor and not happening. The recession that everyone predicted didnt happen. Crime is falling after the surge during the pandemic his predecessor didnt control. He got us out of Afghanistan and most people who care about foreign policy support what we are doing in both Ukraine and Israel. Passed an infrastructure bill.

    Also, he doesnt go on TV and advocate that we use drugs/therapies that he knows absolutely nothing about and he hasn’t once claimed that our soldiers who died in our wars were suckers or losers.


  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Lets put it in context.

    Using Gallup, President Biden at 39% is more popular than the following Presidents in an election year.
    1) Truman (1952)
    2) Johnson (1968)
    3) Carter (1980)
    4) Bush (1992)
    5) Bush (2008)

    and slightly worse than Trump (2020).

    That’s 5 of the 19 elections from 1948. I think that’s pretty fair, Biden’s record is better than the 5 Presidencies on the list except for Bush 92; but Biden would compare negatively to everyone else (Eisenhower, Johnson in 1964, Nixon in 1972, Ford 1976, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 20024, Obama).

  • walt moffett Link

    Maybe folks depend more on their lived experience with job searching, grocery prices, petty crime, etc than the charts that show an unknown reality. Another factor is that Biden is not very likeable, even when he is scripted to be so.

  • Drew Link


    Curious comments

    I’ll go from since I’ve been alive; Johnson – Vietnam War. Carter – what a mess, as Dave noted. Bush 1 – recession, aided by media support of “the worst recession….lie” Bush 2 – Iraq. Not really impressed by the comps.

    steve has a nice fairy tale. But this very blog in recent weeks had a visual that told all. The massive influx of money into the system. That why the GDP. That’s why the employment (although dominated by shit immigrant/ low wage/ part time jobs) Its bullshit.

    All paid for by inflation. Green New Deal. Inflation Reduction Act. Just pork riddled spending bills. Good luck Joe. The American people aren’t as dumb or partisan as steve

  • Larry Link

    Hang in there Joe, you’ve got this.

  • steve Link

    Deficit spending under Trump=good.
    Deficit spending under Biden=bad.

    That’s found in the Drew to English dictionary.


  • Drew Link

    You need to teach me that mind reading trick, Steve.

    Overspending for both bad. But Biden is pork on steroids. And overspending by pols as far back as the eye can see.

    But nice high school debating tactic.

  • I believe I have been consistent, against both Republican and Democratic orthodoxy. Following Keynes I think that deficit spending is only stimulatory when there is excess aggregate supply and otherwise will produce inflation. Carefully targeted tax cuts might spur additional investment but without the targeting would be likely to increase purchases of financial instruments which are not ipso facto stimulatory.

    Over the last 30-40 years the U. S. economy has become tremendously efficient at rooting out excess aggregate supply.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    He has the personality of a mortician.

  • TastyBits Link

    @Dave Schuler
    I doubt even Keynesian scholars would grasp what you are getting at.

    I think Keynesian fiscal policies require a fixed or strictly regulated money supply. When LBJ removed the gold cover, Keynesianism went out the window. President Nixon, Sen. Phil Gramm, and de-industrialization have made it impossible.

    NOTE: I am not a Keynesian, but hey, I will take anything to get a strictly regulated money supply.

  • steve Link

    Not mind reading Drew, just regularly reading. Hard not to notice that when Biden and Trump engage in the same behavior only Biden gets criticized.


  • Zachriel Link

    TastyBits: I think Keynesian fiscal policies require a fixed or strictly regulated money supply.

    Keynes considered monetary policy to be an important lever of economic policy, including that monetary policy had a function of managing inflationary expectations.

  • Drew Link

    Thanks for the belly laugh on that last one, Steve.

  • TastyBits Link

    My point was that today’s Modern Monetary System (MMS) is not the M2 during Keynes’ time. Pre-1968, the money supply was far more nuanced than today. While the dollar was not technically on a gold standard, it was tied to the gold supply.

    Today, most of what is written about inflation is errant nonsense. I have taken up far too much bandwidth about the MMS, and @Dave Schuler has gone over why the structure of our economy does not necessarily produce inflation.

    You are not wrong, but we are in a different universe. Anyway, 2B is waiting for me to do some double-jumping.

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