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Biden Year One Approval Ratings Subpar, Extremely Polarized

Biden Year One Approval Ratings Subpar, Extremely Polarized

Story Highlights

  • Averaged 48.9% job approval first year
  • Party polarization highest for first-year president, second-highest overall
  • Latest job approval rating of 40% Biden's lowest to date

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- During his first year in office, an average of 48.9% of Americans approved of the job President Joe Biden was doing. Biden's job approval ratings started relatively strong at 57%, but by September had plunged to 43%. A new Gallup poll finds 40% of U.S. adults approving of the job he is doing, his lowest to date.

Among post-World War II presidents elected to their first term, only Donald Trump had a lower first-year average rating, at 38.4%. Bill Clinton's first-year average was similar to Biden's, but all other first-year presidents averaged 57% or better.

First-Year Job Approval Averages, Elected Presidents
Dates of first year First-year approval average
Kennedy Jan 20, 1961-Jan 19, 1962 76.4
Eisenhower Jan 20, 1953-Jan 19, 1954 68.8
G.W. Bush Jan 20, 2001-Jan 19, 2002 67.9
G.H.W. Bush Jan 20, 1989-Jan 19, 1990 65.9
Carter Jan 20, 1977-Jan 19, 1978 61.9
Nixon Jan 20, 1969-Jan 19, 1970 61.4
Obama Jan 20, 2009-Jan 19, 2010 57.2
Reagan Jan 20, 1981-Jan 19, 1982 57.1
Clinton Jan 20, 1993-Jan 19, 1994 49.3
Biden Jan 20, 2021-Jan 19, 2022 48.9
Trump Jan 20, 2017-Jan 21, 2018 38.4

Gallup measured Biden's job approval ratings on 13 occasions during his first year in office, including the most recent update from a Jan. 3-16 poll.

His ratings ranged between 54% and 57% from January through June 2021, as the U.S. saw a steep decline in COVID-19 infections and deaths when millions of American adults got vaccinated against the disease. Biden's public support first showed signs of decline in July amid a surge in infections in the summer, tied to the delta variant of the virus.

After a messy U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August, marred by a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S. troops, his approval fell further and has yet to show signs of improvement. In the latest survey, 40% of Americans approve and 56% disapprove of the job he is doing, as the U.S. is plagued by the highest inflation in four decades and another surge of COVID-19 cases, this time fueled by the omicron variant of the coronavirus.


Line graph. Trend in President Joe Biden's job approval rating. Forty- percent of U.S. adults approve of the job Biden is doing as president, similar to the past four months but lower than in readings taken in January through August.

For Biden's most recent quarter in office, his fourth, which spanned from October 20 through January 19, an average of 41.7% of U.S. adults approved of Biden. Only Trump's fourth-quarter average was lower than Biden's, at 36.9%. All other presidents had fourth-quarter averages of 50% or above, with Barack Obama (50.0%), Ronald Reagan (50.8%) and Clinton (51.0%) closest to that mark. George W. Bush's 85.7% fourth-quarter average is the highest, as Americans rallied around his presidency after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Biden Has Lost Most Support Among Independents

The decline in Biden's approval over the course of 2021 has mostly been seen among political independents, among whom 33% approve of the president now compared with ratings of 50% or higher during the first six months of his presidency.

However, the last two Gallup polls show the president's support among his fellow Democrats is also slipping, to around 80% from 90% or higher prior to December.

Republicans' approval of Biden has been exceedingly low, typically below 10%, while Democrats' approval has generally been high.


Line graph. Trend in Biden's job approval ratings by political party. Currently, 82% of Democrats approve of how Biden is handling his job as president, down from readings above 90% between January-November 2021. Biden's approval among independents is 33%. It was 61% in the first Gallup poll measuring Biden job approval and in the 50s through June, before dropping to 43% in August. It has been mostly in the 30s since then. Biden's approval among Republicans is 5% in the latest poll and has been mostly in the single digits since he became president.

Record Polarization for a First-Year President

Biden's extremely low approval ratings from Republicans throughout 2021, and the extremely high ratings from Democrats, led to levels of political party polarization beyond any for a first-year president and only exceeded once previously in any presidential year.

On average during his first year as president, Biden averaged 91% approval among Democrats, 46% among independents and 8% among Republicans. The average 83-percentage-point Democratic-Republican gap exceeded that for prior first-year presidents by a significant margin.

Before Biden, the most polarized first year belonged to Trump, with an average 75-point party gap in approval ratings. Trump's ratings were as low among Democrats as Biden's are among Republicans, but Trump's fellow Republicans were less likely to approve of him during his first year (83%) than Democrats were of Biden.

Other presidents' first-year ratings were far less polarized, primarily because supporters of the opposition party were more charitable in their ratings than they have been for Trump and Biden. Twenty-three percent of Republicans approved of the job Clinton and Obama were doing their first year in office, and 39% of Democrats approved of Reagan.

All other first-year presidents enjoyed job approval of close to 50% or higher among those who identified with the opposition party. And nearly all averaged approval ratings of 80% or higher among supporters of their party. All but Clinton, Trump and Biden had majority approval among political independents.

Job Approval Ratings for First-Year Elected Presidents, by Political Party
Democrats Independents Republicans Party gap
% % % pct. pts.
Biden 91 46 8 83
Trump 8 34 83 75
Obama 88 54 23 65
Clinton 75 45 23 52
Reagan 39 59 85 45
G.W. Bush 47 64 92 45
Nixon 49 61 82 34
G.H.W. Bush 51 61 83 32
Eisenhower 56 69 87 32
Kennedy 87 72 58 29
Carter 72 59 46 26
The party gap may differ from the difference of the Republican and Democratic approval ratings by one point due to rounding.

From a broader historical perspective, Biden's first year was the second-most polarized for any president during any year in office. Only Trump's fourth and last year in office was more polarized. The last four presidential years -- Trump's second through fourth and Biden's first -- are the four most polarized in Gallup's polling history. The last seven presidential years -- including Obama's last two years and Trump's first -- rank among the nine most polarized presidential years, along with Obama and George W. Bush's fourth years, when both were seeking reelection.

Years With Largest Average Party Gaps in Presidential Job Approval Ratings, Gallup Polls
Year in office Dates Democrats Republicans Average gap
% % pct. pts.
Trump 4 Jan 20-Jan 21 6 91 85
Biden 1 Jan 21-Jan 22 91 8 83
Trump 3 Jan 19-Jan 20 7 89 82
Trump 2 Jan 18-Jan 19 87 8 79
Obama 8 Jan 16-Jan 17 89 12 77
Obama 4 Jan 12-Jan 13 86 10 76
G.W. Bush 4 Jan 04-Jan 05 15 91 76
Trump 1 Jan 17-Jan 18 83 8 75
Obama 7 Jan 15-Jan 16 83 10 73
G.W. Bush 5 Jan 05-Jan 06 14 86 72
Obama 5 Jan 13-Jan 14 82 11 71
Obama 6 Jan 14-Jan 15 79 9 70
G.W. Bush 6 Jan 06-Jan 07 9 79 70

Clearly, then, the heightened polarization in presidential approval ratings is a recent phenomenon. It appears to be more a function of how people now evaluate presidents rather than how presidents have performed. U.S. partisans in recent years have become unlikely to approve of a president from the other political party throughout his presidency regardless of the state of the nation or what he has done as president.

Bottom Line

Biden's first year in office has come to an end as the anniversary of his inauguration approaches, and he begins his second year on January 20 in a much weaker political position than he began. Unlike Trump, Biden enjoyed an extended honeymoon as president largely because independents evaluated his early performance positively. Once the COVID-19 situation began to take a turn for the worse, independents began to lose faith in Biden, and the Afghanistan situation further eroded their support for him.

Now, it appears some Democrats have also turned on Biden, although he maintains solid support among his own party. Those Democrats who no longer approve of Biden may be frustrated by the lack of progress on Biden's climate change and social spending plan and on voting rights legislation, if not also the state of the nation marked by rising inflation and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Biden can tout a major COVID-19 relief package, a bipartisan infrastructure bill, as well as declining unemployment and solid economic growth on his watch, the negative factors are outweighing the positive ones when Americans, particularly independents, assess his performance.

One reason that Biden has yet to pass major parts of his agenda is that the Democrats hold narrow majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Apart from the infrastructure bill, Biden has been able to advance his legislative priorities only when he could get all Democrats on board, and the Senate could use special rules to pass bills with a simple majority vote since Republicans have been unified in opposition to nearly all of his plans.

With the midterm elections looming later this year and Biden's job approval stuck in the low 40s, the Democratic Party is facing significant losses of congressional seats. If that happens, Biden will have to govern with Republican majorities in his third and fourth years in office, and his ability to pass his agenda will be further hampered.

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Explore President Biden's approval ratings and compare them with those of past presidents in the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center.

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