Here’s why Joe Biden polls well, but Kamala Harris does not

A recent poll from The Economist and YouGov shows President Biden polling relatively well, with 33 percent of voters having a “very favorable” opinion of the president and 18 percent a “somewhat favorable” opinion, adding up to 51 percent of Americans having a favorable view.  

In an Associated Press poll, the 46th president is at a formidable 63 percent approval.

So, given that the Biden administration is actually billed as the Biden-Harris administration by its own admission, one would think the vice president would be polling just as strongly. But that’s not the case. Not even close.  

In a May 4 poll, Vice President Harris is at just 41 percent approval, with 49 percent disapproval. Compared to her boss in the West Wing, that’s a 10-point approval gap.  

The latest May 11 poll from the same organization improves slightly, but Harris still sits at 26 percent “very favorable,” while Biden is at 33 percent “very favorable,” or 7 points higher. 

Among independents in the May 11 poll, Harris clocks in at 38 percent “favorable,” 53 percent “unfavorable.” That’s 15 points underwater.  

How can this be, you ask? The vice president is a historic figure. The first female vice president. The first person of color to be vice president. And it’s not like media coverage has been remotely negative. “Slobbering” is a word that comes to mind if these headlines are any indication.  

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran a “report” with the headline, “100 Days of Vice-Presidential Style.” Subtitle: “Kamala Harris doesn’t want to talk about clothes. Neither does Jill Biden. You can understand why. But lots of people still want to know what they are wearing.”

If anyone remembers this sort of coverage from the paper of record regarding then-First Lady Melania Trump – who was only a top international fashion model – or of Second Lady Karen Pence, feel free to share. (Narrator: It doesn’t exist.) 

And then there’s this from the Washington Post:

“When Vice President Harris visited a woman-owned yarn shop in Alexandria last month, she mentioned a little-known fact about herself that left the fiber arts community a bit giddy,” the piece reads. “The new vice president is a crocheter.”

It gets no better on the West Coast, where the Los Angeles Times actually invented a beat “dedicated to [Harris’s] historic rise to the White House.”

But will this beat also cover the vice president’s actual job performance given that she’s been tasked with leading the administration’s response to the U.S.-Mexico border catastrophe? Because since Harris was handed that responsibility more than seven weeks ago, she has not:

  • Held a press conference to explain how she plans to tackle the crisis, which includes more than 178,000 migrants encountered at the border in April alone, marking an increase from March’s skyrocketing numbers and the highest one-month total in 20 years. Harris might also have to answer questions about why she once seemingly compared ICE to the KKK and argued that illegal border crossings should be legal
  • Visited the border itself, which would entail going to dangerously-overcrowded border facilities and speaking to officials on the ground to get a better grasp of how and why this situation continues to worsen. 
  • Visited Honduras, Mexico or Guatemala to talk with leaders there about how to stem this human tidal wave now and in the future. A fully vaccinated Harris said on Apr. 14 that she wants to visit the triangle “as soon as possible” but blamed “COVID restrictions” for not going now. She provided no details about what those restrictions are. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is perfectly safe for the vaccinated to travel, and it’s not like she’ll be in the middle seat of a Southwest Airlines flight for the trip. 

Border state officials are getting increasingly fed up, including many House Democrats in those states and Arizona’s attorney general, Republican Mark Brnovich, who is calling on Biden to replace Harris in this effort.  

For now, Joe Biden is polling relatively well after the honeymoon period of his first 100 days. Inheriting vaccines and a recovering economy during a once-in-a-century pandemic will help do that. 

Kamala Harris is not polling well, however, despite a media that has been rooting for her since her failed 2020 presidential bid. This does not bode well for 2024 if Harris replaces an 80-something-year-old Biden at the top of the ticket. Because as the vice president is quickly finding out: complaining is easy; governing is hard. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.

Tags American immigration crisis American women in politics Jill Biden Joe Biden Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign Karen Pence Melania Trump

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