This is a really bad number for Joe Biden
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Politics is about passion. Passion means turning out to vote – no matter what else is going on in your life.
And usually, passion – at least in politics – comes in the form of disapproval. The more you don’t like something – or someone – the more likely you are to turn out to vote against them. People who are satisfied with the way things are – even passionately so! – typically vote in lower numbers.
Which brings me to a number buried in the latest New York Times/Siena College poll about President Joe Biden.
Biden’s overall job approval number among likely voters stood at 39%, while his disapproval number stood at 58%. But when you look at strong approval and disapproval – signs of passion – you see the real trouble.
A total of 18% strongly approve of the job Biden is doing. Almost three times that number – 45% – strong disapprove. And of that 45%, 9 in 10 said they plan to vote for a Republican for Congress in the midterm elections. (Overall, 49% of likely voters said they were more likely to vote for a Republican candidate, compared to 45% who said they were more likely to vote for a Democratic candidate.)
It’s very easy to see what’s happening here: There’s a very strong sentiment among a plurality of voters against Biden – and that is leading directly to how people view the coming election.
In one way, there’s nothing surprising about any of that. Midterm elections – especially the first midterm election of a president’s tenure – tend to be a referendum on the party in power.
And they usually function as a bit of a course correction, with the party out of power picking up seats. The worse a president’s approval rating, the worse his party usually does.
In 2018, with Donald Trump’s approval rating stuck in the low 40s, Democrats netted 40 House seats and won the majority. Prior to that election, the average number of seats lost by a president’s party when the president is under 50% approval was 37 House seats. (The average seat loss when a president is over 50% approval was 14.)
Which is how, at the start of this election cycle, we expected things to play out – especially with Biden stuck in the low 40s in terms of job approval.
But over the summer and even into September, polls showed a clear bump for Biden and Democrats as their base rallied against the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
What’s happening now? It looks like the weight of Biden’s low approval ratings is reasserting itself and we are headed to the election we had long expected: One in which Republicans have a clear edge.
The Point: It’s been a winding road, but the 2022 election is starting to look less anomalous and more predictable as we enter the final stretch.