A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 54% of Americans approve of Biden's job performance, down slightly from 59% last month. This is a solid rating for a president in his first year of office, especially given the country's deep political polarization. However, it's a troubling sign for Biden, who faces the most difficult domestic and international policy challenges of his presidency thus far.
Survey results show that the president's handling of the pandemic is the biggest warning sign. Sixty-six percent of Americans praised his handling of the pandemic last month. Now, 54% of Americans are disapproving. This is due to a decline in support from Republicans as well as independents.
This decline in support comes as other storm clouds gather over Biden's presidency. Most notably, the deteriorating condition in Afghanistan as U.S troops withdraw and the Taliban consolidate their control of the country.
The poll, conducted August 12-16, as news of the Taliban's movement into Kabul was widely reported in the United States, shows Americans about evenly divided over Biden's handling of foreign policy (47% approve, 51% disapprove) and national security (52% approve, 46% disapprove).
Biden's domestic policies are also uncertain on Capitol Hill. Democratic leaders are trying to reconcile party divisions over two infrastructure bills, but there is little progress on voting rights and police overhaul legislation.
However, Biden's advisors think that his pandemic handling will determine whether he is elected president. The White House declared victory over the virus in early summer. It supported the lifting of restrictions on public health and encouraged vaccinated Americans return to normalcy. According to polling, Biden won plaudits from almost all Democrats and a healthy portion of Republicans for his pandemic approach.
Some of that support has eroded as a dangerous new strain of COVID-19 takes hold, worries about the virus grow and vaccination rates in the U.S. stall, leading more communities, businesses and schools to reinstate restrictions such as mask mandates that were lifted earlier this year when trends were heading in a more positive direction.
Biden has urged Americans to get vaccinated. He has also set up vaccine requirements for federal workers as well as the military. However, resistance to the vaccine is stubborn in conservative areas of the country where there have been dramatic increases in COVID-19-related cases.
Judy Kunzman (75), a Democrat from Middletown in Pennsylvania, said that "I think a lot" of it is out of her hands. "If he becomes too dictatorial, there'll be a lot of blowback."
Jeanette Ellis-Carter (69) wants Biden to push for more vaccine mandates in the country. The Cincinnati resident, who is fully vaccinated but has recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, worries that if there are no vaccine mandates, Americans will become more sick.
"When I was a kid, the school required us to get the measles shot and polio shots. She said, "What's the difference?"
Republican officials led the opposition against the Biden administration's summer vaccine and mask measures. According to the August AP-NORC poll, only 21% of Republicans support Biden's handling of COVID-19. This is down from 32% in June and 43% last month. His handling of the pandemic is now supported by 44% of independents, compared to 72%.
These shifts have brought Biden's approval rating regarding the pandemic closer to the public's view of his handling other major issues. This is largely due to partisan divisions.
According to the poll, 49% of respondents approve of Biden's economic management and 49% disapprove. This is a decrease of 57% approval from April.
The White House hopes that this fall will see the final passage of two sweeping bills that will inject money into the economy to support infrastructure projects and spending on family services.
Biden celebrated the Senate's passage of a $1 trillion, hard-fought infrastructure bill. It passed with bipartisan support. The House will not be able to pass the $3.5 trillion budget bill that was pushed through the Senate by Democrats. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is trying to find a balance between moderates that object to the higher price tag of the bill and progressives who insist that it is the price they must pay for supporting the bipartisan measure.
Another indicator to monitor for the White House is the fact that Americans are less certain about the direction of the country. 39% say the nation is heading in the right direction while 61% believe it's headed in the wrong direction. 44% of Americans said that the country is heading in the right direction last month.