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As Biden settles in, his approval rating already tops Trump's

After just two weeks, Joe Biden has already reached levels of public support his predecessor can only envy.
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President Joe Biden prepares to sign executive orders on affordable healthcare in the Oval Office of the White House on Jan. 28, 2021.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

Traditionally, new American presidents begin their terms with relatively high approval ratings, as part of a "honeymoon" phase that evaporates as they begin governing in earnest.

For the most part, President Joe Biden is enjoying similar public support. Here, for example, is the latest national Monmouth poll:

President Joe Biden begins his term with the backing of a majority of Americans.... Biden begins his term with a positive job rating of 54% approve and 30% disapprove. Another 16% have no opinion. The current presidential rating is already higher than it was at any point during Donald Trump's term in office.

A national Marist poll, released yesterday, pointed in a similar direction.

Nearly half of Americans (49%) approve of President Joe Biden's job performance. A majority of Americans (55%) perceive Biden to be doing more to unite the country than to divide it, and a plurality (47%) consider Biden to be changing the nation for the better. These findings are in stark contrast with the impressions of Donald Trump shortly after he took office in 2017.

FiveThirtyEight maintains a national average for Biden, and as the new president wraps up his second week, his support is just a little over 53%, which is roughly in line with where Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were at this point in their respective terms. Biden is also doing a bit better than George W. Bush after two weeks, but not as well as Barack Obama.

But what's of particular interest is the comparison to Biden's immediate predecessor: Donald Trump is the only president since the dawn of modern polling to never reach 50% at any point in his term. It'd be a stretch to characterize Biden's current standing as some kind of impressive triumph -- it's good, but it's not that good -- though our new president has a level of support his predecessor can only envy.

(At least, he would envy it, were he not convinced that independent pollsters secretly conspired against him as part of an elaborate plot to influence the nation's electoral process.)

Does Biden's relatively good approval rating matter? It can't hurt. The new president clearly needs Congress to work with him on an ambitious relief and recovery plan, and if Biden's public support were tanking, some of the more conservative and/or the more vulnerable Democrats might be less inclined to follow Biden's lead. The more the president's approval rating tops 50%, the more likely he'll be able to approach lawmakers from a strong position.

What's more, Biden has been quite aggressive in issuing executive orders and taking executive actions to advance his agenda, sparking plenty of complaints from Republicans and conservative media. If the public has a problem with these presidential efforts, there's no evidence of it in the latest polling.