The political tides are turning against the Biden presidency

The recent decline in support for President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE and his administration likely means that the Democratic Party will lose control of the House and potentially the Senate in 2022 — and makes it increasingly likely that Biden will be a one-term president.

Just 41 percent of registered voters now approve of Biden, while 55 percent disapprove, according to a USA Today-Suffolk University survey released last week. 

President Biden’s approval rating has markedly deteriorated, having dropped 16 points since this spring. 

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In early May, Biden’s approval rating stood at 57 percent, with 38 percent disapproving, according to a Politico poll among registered voters. To note, other public polls around this time generally showed the president’s approval in the mid-50s.

What explains Biden’s precipitous decline? 

On the key issues facing the country — the economy, immigration, the pandemic and Afghanistan — Biden and Democrats receive negative ratings. And speaking as professional pollsters, when an incumbent party trails so significantly on the key challenges facing the country close to one year before an election, it is a potential harbinger of ill for that party. 

With regard to the economy, just 39 percent of registered voters approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, while 53 percent disapprove, according to the USA Today-Suffolk University survey.

Likely 2022 voters also trust Republicans over Democrats by 12 points in terms of which party is best able to manage the economy, according to a July 2021 poll conducted by Third Way, a Democratic centrist group.

Further, nearly two thirds of likely 2022 voters (63 percent) are convinced by the argument that Democrats are being irresponsible and recklessly spending, which has led to higher prices on consumer goods, according to recent polling conducted by our firm, Schoen Cooperman Research.

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Democrats also trail Republicans on immigration, as migrant encounters at the southern border soared to record highs in July. Indeed, our poll finds that voters trust Republicans (46 percent) more than Democrats (37 percent) to address immigration. 

Furthermore, Biden’s approval rating on the COVID-19 pandemic — once his strongest area — has dramatically declined since this spring.

In late April, 69 percent of Americans approved of Biden’s handling of the pandemic, according to an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. Yet last week, that number had dropped by 16 points to just 53 percent, according to the same pollster.

All that said, Biden’s greatest failure as of late is arguably his handling of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Our poll finds that voters largely disapprove (56 percent to 35 percent) of the way the withdrawal is occurring. And of those who disapprove, a majority (58 percent) blame Biden rather than President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE (12 percent) or both administrations equally (22 percent).

Further, given the tragic terrorist attack that occurred outside the Kabul airport on Thursday, which killed 13 U.S. troops and 170 Afghans and wounded hundreds more, we can expect that Biden’s ratings on Afghanistan — and his overall ratings — will continue to decline. 

And now, Biden is saying that the U.S. is negotiating with one group of terrorists to try to protect American lives threatened by an even more virulent group of terrorists. The optics alone are incredibly damaging to Biden’s presidency — and possibly even to perceptions of the United States in the international community.

As President Biden’s ratings on key issues continue to decline, congressional Democrats have real reason to worry about their 2022 prospects.

In our poll, we analyzed the 2022 generic congressional horse race and found that Republicans come out ahead by 2 points (48 percent to 46 percent) when respondents who are initially “not sure” are allocated based on which way they lean — as the poll found undecideds to be strongly negative to the administration, rating Biden unfavorably by 50 to 33 percent, while voters overall rate Biden positively by 50 to 46 percent.

Moreover, with congressional Democrats having approved a budget blueprint their $3.5 trillion dollar spending bill — which will bring massive across the board tax increases and will likely increase the debt, deficit and inflation — we can expect that an even more substantial electoral backlash is coming, along the lines of what we saw in 1994 and 2010. 

In the 1994 midterms under President Clinton, Democrats suffered a blowout defeat following the passage of the then-largest tax increase in history, which the then-Democratic Congress passed that year without Republican support.

And in 2010, during President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOur remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Chelsea Manning tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s first midterm election, Democrats lost control of the House — and Republicans won back more than 60 seats — due in large measure to voters’ perception of governmental overreach on health care and the economy by the administration and Democrats in power.

That said, it is noteworthy that the mere circumstances of the 2022 midterms also present challenges for Democrats. Republicans need to pick up just five House seats, and redistricting alone could cost Democrats close to or even more than that number. 

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Further, since World War II, only twice has the president’s party gained seats in the midterm elections — in 1998 during the Clinton administration and then in 2002 during the George W. Bush administration. To note, both presidents had approval ratings above 60 percent and even so saw only meager House seat gains. 

According to a 2018 Gallup analysis of midterm seat gains and losses, in midterm elections since 1946, the average loss for the president's party is 25 U.S. House seats — presidents with an approval below 50 percent see their party lose an average of 37 House seats.

Taken together with the potential for increased electoral backlash against Democrats — and possibly even a wave election — the Senate could also be in play as well, notwithstanding the number of seats that Republicans would have to flip.

In short, by catering to the left wing of the party, the Biden administration risks enhancing the likelihood of an outcome in the midterms similar to 1994 and 2010, when similar big government initiatives cost the Democrats control of Congress. 

Douglas E. Schoen and Carly Cooperman are pollsters and partners with the public opinion company Schoen Cooperman Research based in New York. They are co-authors of a forthcoming book, entitled “America: Unite or Die.”