Photo: Gage Skidmore (2019), Creative Commons License 2.0

ABC News and the Washington Post surveyed Americans on President Joe Biden's job performance as he closes in on his first 100 days, an arbitrary number we've been convinced carries some weight. Biden enjoys he approval of 52 percent of adults, compared with 42 percent of adults who don't care for the job he's doing. According to the Post and this ABC News tweet, these are objectively the worst numbers for a sitting president after 100 days in office since World War II.

Twitter

Now, you might ask yourself, “Wait, wasn't Donald Trump president?" It's pleasant to pretend that never happened, but, sorry, it did. The former White House squatter never at any point in his ragamuffin presidency broke 50 percent approval in Gallup polling. The Post concedes that Biden's "approval rating is lower than any recent past presidents except Donald Trump," who had 42 percent approval after his first 100 days. That's quite the asterisk. It's like saying someone is the worst babysitter ever, except for the lady who tried to eat Hansel and Gretel.


President Lost Cause also left office (kicking and screaming) with a 29 percent approval rating.

There's another asterisk here: President Gerald Ford scored 48 percent approval in 1974 after pardoning disgraced former President Richard Nixon. I was born in 1974, so my vanity demands Ford be included in the list of “recent past presidents." ABC News's original tweet from Saturday was flat-out wrong, but it was replaced Sunday with more accurate Debbie Downer content: "52 percent of Americans approve of Pres. Joe Biden's first 100 days in office — the third-lowest of any president at that milestone since Harry Truman, per a new @ABCNews/WaPo poll."

This obsession with a president's first 100 days is a throwback to the concept of a presidential “honeymoon period," during which Americans, regardless of party, mostly rally around a new leader. Despite a contentious 2000 election, Democrats gave George W. Bush a break. His approval was 53.9 percent. That's statistically not much greater than Biden's but a significant improvement upon Bush's 47.9 percent popular vote performance months earlier. Biden, however, is holding his numbers from the 2020 election.

Fox News, which launched in 1996, ruined the honeymoon period. Comparing Biden's numbers at this point to past presidents without mentioning the right wing's perpetual outrage machine is journalistic malpractice. Republicans in 2009 made obstructing Obama their primary objective. For most of 2010, Obama rarely reached 50 percent approval. Biden was present for this crap, and he realizes that keeping the people who supported him happy is more important than trying to make deals with bad-faith Republicans.

Average approval ratings over the course of a presidency are arguably a fairer standard for comparison these days. Bill Clinton's approval rating was 53 percent after 100 days but the average over six months was 50.5 percent. There's a good chance Biden's six month average will remain steady and thus exceed Clinton's. Looking beyond the numbers, Clinton was anecdotally showing signs of weakness among his own voters:

"I had some high hopes," said Linda Brantley, a Milwaukee postal service investigator and Clinton voter, "but they were shot down kind of quickly. His first 100 days, I'd have to give him an F. He's trying to please too many people all at the same time, without really looking at the heart of the issues."

Biden has 90 percent support from Democrats, 47 percent support from independents, and 13 percent support from Republicans, most of whom don't even think he's president. He has high marks on the economy and COVID-19, and is only underwater regarding the imaginary border “crisis." These are good numbers! But the Post claims there are still "potential warning signs ahead about his governing strategy." Biden doesn't even get credit for having a governing strategy, unlike his predecessor who just flung racist feces on the wall to see what stuck. But the media always graded President Klan Robe on a curve.

For example:

NBC News

NBC News reported in 2017:

President Donald Trump's approval rating is the lowest of any president ever polled at this early point in his term.

But while no president has ever been this unpopular this soon, his abysmal rating may not preclude him for a successful presidency just yet.

No, the former guy's abysmal approval rating remained abysmal and precluded the fuck out of his having a successful presidency. Nonetheless, the New York Times relentlessly interviewed white working class voters who stood by their very racist idiot man.

Uncle Joe is doing fine, no asterisk needed. Maybe we'll start hearing from the Biden voters who are happy they received stimulus checks and a COVID-19 vaccine.

[Washington Post]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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