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Image: President Joe Biden speaks following a tour of Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Va., on May 3, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks following a tour of Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Va., on May 3, 2021.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

Biden enjoys levels of support his predecessor never reached

Biden has managed to pull off a polling feat Trump felt the need to lie about. The prospect for practical benefits are real.


As President Joe Biden's second 100 days gets underway, new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research polling shows the Democrat with surprisingly strong support.

In the fourth month of his presidency, Biden's overall approval rating sits at 63%. When it comes to the new Democratic president's handling of the pandemic, 71% of Americans approve, including 47% of Republicans. The AP-NORC poll also shows an uptick in Americans' overall optimism about the state of the country. Fifty-four percent say the country is on the right track, higher than at any point in AP-NORC polls conducted since 2017; 44% think the nation is on the wrong track.

Not surprisingly, the partisan gaps in the AP's poll were enormous: Biden's support among Democratic voters stands at 96%, while the president's approval rating is 63% among independents and just 23% among GOP voters.

What's more, it's also worth emphasizing that the AP's results reflect just one poll, and other recent surveys haven't shown Biden's approval rating quite this high.

But while those caveats are relevant, they don't negate the fact that the president remains broadly popular with the public, and to the extent that Biden received a post-inaugural "honeymoon," it's not over.

As for why any of this matters, I think there are a handful of angles to keep in mind. First, Biden is enjoying levels of support his immediate predecessor never reached at any point during his term. As regular readers may recall, 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.)

Second, the latest polling suggests Republican criticisms of the president haven't had much of an effect, at least not yet. For four months, leading GOP voices have condemned Biden as an out-of-control radical hellbent on destroying the nation's system of free enterprise, banning hamburgers, and forcing people to attend two years of community college, even if they don't want to.

If Republicans were expecting these lines of attack to undermine the president's public standing, they may need a Plan B.

And finally, it's worth pausing to marvel at Biden's 96% approval rating among Democrats. As we've discussed, among Trump's favorite lies was that he enjoyed an approval among Republican voters between 94% and 96% throughout his failed White House tenure. The boasts were never quite true, but the former president, preoccupied with the idea that only GOP voters mattered, peddled the line obsessively anyway.

Oddly enough, his successor has managed to pull off the feat Trump felt the need to lie about.

There may yet be practical consequences associated with such high levels of intra-party support. Biden continues to push an ambitious agenda, and if he's going to secure additional victories, he'll need to maintain robust support from the Democratic Congress.

The polling can, and likely will, help in that goal. If Biden were struggling with a 40% approval rating, and he faced widespread skepticism from voters in his own party, Democratic lawmakers would be far less likely to follow Biden's lead.

But a 96% approval rating among Democratic voters, coupled with strong polling support for much of his policy agenda, can only help on Capitol Hill.