In today's 538 approval rating average, Biden is at just net +.2--47.2 approve/47.0 disapprove. In short order, I expect he'll be net negative. Why?
Some attrition was probably inevitable from his earlier strong and very stable approval rating. But the sharpness of the recent drop is disturbing. The most likely explanation is the coronavirus Delta surge and the roadblock that has placed to the return of normality. Obviously the shambolic Afghanistan withdrawal has not helped matters, but the main driving force behind Biden's approval rating decline is not that.
Russell Berman in the Atlantic:
"Just one-quarter of respondents approved of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan in an NBC News poll released on Sunday.
A closer look at these surveys, however, suggests that the larger—and, for Biden, potentially more worrisome—factor in his declining support remains the pandemic. The NBC poll asked respondents what they considered the most important issue facing the country; the coronavirus was the top choice, while Afghanistan didn’t even make the list. The public also still supports Biden’s decision to withdraw American forces, recent surveys show. Simon Jaworski, the president of the U.S. office of Leger, which regularly conducts polls for The Atlantic, told me that Biden’s approval rating in its surveys had fallen significantly in the month before the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.
One data point has jumped out to pollsters more than any other. From April to August, the percentage of people in the NBC poll who said that the worst of the pandemic was behind us plummeted by 24 points (from 61 percent to 37 percent). “These days, we just don’t see shifts like that in a lot of political measurements,” Jeff Horwitt, the Democratic half of the bipartisan polling team that ran the survey, told me. Leger measured a similar sentiment and saw an even more dramatic dip, from 60 percent in early July to just 32 percent about five weeks later....
Voters elected Biden in no small part to get control of the pandemic, and to provide steady leadership that could steer the country to a return to normalcy. But the rise of Delta despite a mass-vaccination campaign has shown the limits of his ability to control the virus. Much of the resurgence isn’t Biden’s fault; millions of Americans, egged on by the skepticism and disinformation of conservative elites, have refused the inoculations, and COVID-19 is spreading fastest in places where vaccination rates are lowest. But Delta is everywhere now, and cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rise nationwide. Even in highly vaccinated places, the virus’s spread is wreaking havoc with schools and travel, stunting return-to-office plans, and prompting an intense debate over the question of vaccine mandates."
As I noted in a piece on The Liberal Patriot earlier this year:
Biden got 51 percent of the vote in 2020, enough to win the election, but hardly a dominant majority. And Democrats’ downballot performance was distinctly inferior, leading to disappointing performance in Senate, House and state legislative races. The Biden administration now confronts a divided country racked by twin pandemic and economic crises. In the not so far distance looms the 2022 midterm elections where an incoming Presidential administration traditionally loses ground. The last time Democrats faced this situation in 2010 they suffered massive losses.
The imperative here is expand the Biden coalition. Concretely, that means Biden’s approval rating has to be as high as possible going into 2022. That is by far the most straightforward way of insulating the Democrats from big losses and creating at least the possibility for some gains.
So, how to do this? I offer a simple formula: convert Trump disapproval into Biden approval/Democratic votes....The conversion process for turning...Trump disapprovers into Biden approvers and then hopefully Democratic voters can only run through a successful attack on the pandemic and economic crises. Really for the next period of time nothing else is important. Not immigration reform. Not criminal justice reform. Not climate change. Not child poverty. Not executive orders. Not Trump’s trial. Either solve the twin crises or prepare yourself for the wrath of voters who will, not unreasonably, think you have failed them. The Biden coalition will shrink, not expand and all the great ideas progressives have for improving the country will come to naught."
To Biden's credit he has already managed to accomplish quite a lot and the economy does appear to be on a good trajectory. And perhaps little could have been done to mitigate the current coronavirus surge. But he, his administration and the Democrats will still be judged on their success in solving the twin pandemic and economic crises. They're not there yet and that's a problem.