Sometimes polling numbers change so slowly that it takes a while to notice an important trend, but Joe Biden’s job approval ratings are still gradually creeping upward, as I noted at New York:
Democrats managed to break pretty close to even in the 2022 midterms despite Joe Biden’s chronically underwater job-approval ratings. But now there’s even better news for Democrats and for Biden’s prospects of winning a second term: His job-approval numbers have been gradually improving since Election Day. And if you look at his approval ratio (the gap between those approving and disapproving of his performance as president), the trends are even better.
According to the RealClearPolitics polling averages, Biden’s current job-approval ratio is minus 7.6 percent (44.1 percent approval, 51.7 percent disapproval). The gap was 12.4 percent on November 8, 2022, and 20.7 percent last July 20 (36.8 percent approval, 57.5 percent disapproval). In the FiveThirtyEight averages, Biden is even closer to being above water in terms of popularity. His ratio is now minus 6.8 percent (44.1 percent approval, 50.9 percent disapproval). Last time he was in positive territory was on August 29, 2021, at FiveThirtyEight and on August 21, 2021, at RCP. There are some outlier polls already showing Biden above water (e.g., a new Economist/YouGov poll that gives him 50 percent approval and 47 percent disapproval among registered voters). More may soon follow.
What does Biden need in the way of popularity to become a good bet for reelection in 2024? Using Gallup data (our best source for comparing presidents over time), recent presidents who won reelection had job-approval ratings between 48 percent (George W. Bush in 2004) and 58 percent (Ronald Reagan in 1984). Obama was at 52 percent, and Bill Clinton was at 54 percent. Losers included Jimmy Carter at a terrible 37 percent and Donald Trump at a meh 45 percent (Trump, of course, came pretty close to pulling off the electoral-vote upset despite losing the popular vote by 4.5 percent).
Biden might note that Obama (whose party did not do remotely as well in the 2010 midterms as it did in 2022) gained six points in job-approval ratings between June and November of 2012. That kind of progress for Biden from now through Election Day 2024 would put him in relatively good standing. And that’s aside from the fact that he could win reelection even with unimpressive job-approval numbers if his opponent has popularity issues of his or her own. Presumably, these are matters that Biden will mull before he makes his 2024 intentions definitively known.