The Biden honeymoon is over, but there’s a reason his new approval lows aren’t cause for alarm – yet

US President Joe Biden convenes a virtual Covid-19 Summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, on September 22, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
  • President Joe Biden’s approval rating hit another new low, this time in Gallup’s survey at 43%.
  • The Delta variant and his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal are the two biggest factors.
  • Historical data shows it’s too early for Democrats to fret just yet.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden hit another new low in an ongoing polling survey on Wednesday.

Biden’s approval rating is now at 43% according to Gallup, the same number he slipped to when he hit a record low in the NPR/Marist poll earlier in September. Just like the NPR/Marist survey, Biden has been losing ground among independent voters in Gallup’s version.

Vice President Kamala Harris fared slightly better, with her approval rating landing at 49%, according to Gallup.

Although Biden is down significantly from his 68% job approval rating coming out of the transition and into the beginning of his term – and has proven more vulnerable to dips resulting from exogenous events compared to former President Donald Trump – it’s still too early to jump to a conclusion about what this means for the 2022 midterms, much less the rest of his presidency.

Historically, a newly elected president’s party consistently loses seats in Congress in the midterm elections two years after the general. The average loss in the House – where every seat is up for reelection every two years – has been 25 seats since 1946, or an average of 37 for unpopular presidents, according to Gallup.

Even the generic ballot, which has proven to be the most reliable predictor of a party’s performance in the midterm elections, doesn’t tend to resemble the eventual results until a few months out from the election, as Nathaniel Rakich wrote last week in a FiveThirtyEight polling analysis.

Presidential approval has not had the same predictive weight to it when it comes to the midterms compared to a full presidential election, though there remains a loose correlation between the two.

U.S. House Net Seat Gain or Loss for President's Party, by Presidential Job Approval Rating Year	President/Party	% Job approval at midterm	Seat gain/loss for president's party 1998	Clinton/Dem	66	+5 2002	G.W. Bush/Rep	63	+6 1986	Reagan/Rep	63	-5 1962	Kennedy/Dem	61	-4 1954	Eisenhower/Rep	61	-18 1990	G.H.W. Bush/Rep	58	-8 1970	Nixon/Rep	58	-12 1958	Eisenhower/Rep	57	-47 1974	Ford/Rep	54	-43 1978	Carter/Dem	49	-11 1994	Clinton/Dem	46	-53 2010	Obama/Dem	45	-63 2014	Obama/Dem	44	-13 1966	Johnson/Dem	44	-47 1982	Reagan/Rep	42	-28 1950	Truman/Dem	39	-29 2006	G.W. Bush/Rep	38	-30 1946	Truman/Dem	33	-55
The more unpopular a president is, the worse their party tends to do in the midterm elections, though there are several notable exceptions. Courtesy of Gallup

In continuing surveys like Gallup and NPR/Marist, Biden’s approval has not budged that much with Democrats and Republicans. His biggest issue has been hemorrhaging support among independents for months.

Pollsters that ask about his handling of the pandemic have found a slide in that metric among independents, which tends to mirror his overall job approval rating with the same group.

In January, 61% of independent voters told Gallup they approved of Biden’s job performance. The latest poll has him all the way down to 37% among them.

With the Afghanistan withdrawal on top of that, Biden’s approval has reverted to Obama and Trump-era levels of polarization.

The Gallup summary of the latest poll put it bluntly.

“Biden’s latest approval rating further cements the fact that the honeymoon phase of his presidency is behind him,” Gallup’s Megan Brenan writes. “Political independents, who were part of the coalition that helped him defeat Trump in 2020, now largely disapprove of the job he is doing as president.”

However, after what has already been a topsy turvy year and-a-half since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be plenty more exogenous events that happen between now and Nov. 2022.

How Biden handles those and how he gets the country out of the Delta variant – along with whatever else the virus has in store for humanity – will weigh much more significantly among the public than his summer of 2021.