Presidents start off with high approval ratings because they are winners, but as John E. Mueller, the leading scholar on the subject, wrote in 1970, after a few early moments of happiness and agreement with the audience, all chairs tend to decline naturally. . From Mueller’s perspective, the decline is built-in. Presidents win the White House by making extravagant appeals and promises to multiple interest groups. These voters fall in love with them and develop unreasonable expectations of what the president can accomplish. And they are systematically abandoned.
In Biden’s case, much of the current disappointment in him is the necessary price he has to pay for promising a great expansion of social programs – a free community college, dental care for the elderly, a path to citizenship for immigrants, for example – but that has so far failed. deliver. As these proposals have been scaled down or vaporized, some of the voters who originally passed out for Biden became disillusioned. Voters are like this: Promise them $ 3.5 trillion in benefits and some of them will hate you if you only deliver $ 2 trillion to them. Biden also vowed to defeat Covid-19, which he did not (but make progress). Biden’s optimism, which failed in the political market, made his program a punching bag for the press, and their critical coverage contributed to his flabby numbers. (It should be noted that Trump’s approval ratings haven’t changed much during his presidency, perhaps because he has complied with the expectations he set for both approving and disapproving citizens. )
Outside of feeding expectations, the variables that move a resident president’s approval numbers mostly out of his control. If he’s lucky enough to hold the helm when the country plunges into crisis, he can expect to boost his approval ratings even though he doesn’t deserve any credit for the response. For example, that of Jimmy Carter was mounted when the hostages were taken in Tehran. Later, of course, when the incident reduced him to a pitiful and helpless giant, his grades dropped. The two Bushes saw their numbers increase after September 11 and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Neither of them was able to maintain these figures after entering the war. John Kennedy’s presidency’s highest poll point has come after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a plan by Dwight D. Eisenhower that Kennedy approved. Ronald Reagan’s numbers rose after he was shot.
If the economy goes awry on an administration, the president’s ratings invariably suffer, Mueller writes. But oddly enough, if the economy improves, the supervising president usually does not reap any rewards. If a president is victorious in a war – or just ends one like Eisenhower did in Korea – he can expect a bump. But it’s not a safe bet. Biden got next to nothing for ending the intervention in Afghanistan, which is curious because he handled it better than President Gerald Ford during the fall of Saigon, and Ford got a slight increase in his approval rate. Mueller writes that the safest way to leave the White House with Eisenhower-like numbers – he peaked at 79% and left with around 60% – is to be as likable as Ike or to quit immediately. after taking the oath. No one will ever match Ike’s avuncularity and seeing as Biden missed his chance to quit on opening day, he must look for other ways to reverse his numbers.