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A year ago, President Joe Biden started out in the White House with strong polling numbers.
By late summer, the military withdrawal from Afghanistan marked the start of a sustained decline.
The Omicron and Delta variants coincided with losses of support among Democrats and independents.
On January 20, 2021, newly sworn-in President Joe Biden enjoyed approval ratings near 60%.
He heads into his second year in office with 43% of the public approving of his job performance, according to Gallup's tracking poll, down from a peak of 57% from January through April last year. Biden hit a record low in the first Politico/Morning Consult poll of 2022, falling to a 40% approval rating.
Biden began his administration from a position of strength, albeit with a narrow House majority and the narrowest of possible ones in the Senate. A popular voter perception of Biden as someone well equipped to handle the coronavirus proved to be a double edged sword, with his pandemic approval numbers closely tied to his support among independents.
Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris fell to historic lows in their approval ratings for a first year in office.
How it got this bad this quickly for Biden largely comes down to pandemic expectations, and particularly how those wound up disappointing independent voters. These three junctures over Biden's 365 days in the Oval Office so far show where he paid the biggest price in the court of public opinion.
The military withdrawal from Afghanistan
Biden's first major dip in approval following his decision to finally end the War in Afghanistan proved he was already more vulnerable to external events than former President Donald Trump.
Trump's approval rating was remarkably consistent over the course of his term, never venturing much higher or lower than the low 40 percentage point range. This led to questions among political scientists and pollsters over whether this was the new normal in the polarized and hyper-partisan political environment of the US.
Coming early in Biden's first term, the Afghanistan withdrawal may have said more about what he shares with his predecessors in polling trends and what an outlier Trump was than anything else specific to him. But Biden has yet to recover the ground he lost with independent voters starting around July and August of 2020.
The Delta and Omicron variants
From April to August last year, Biden fell almost 30 percentage points among independents in NBC's tracking poll, going from a high of 81% to 52%.
Days before his 79th birthday in November, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found a year-to-year drop of 29 percentage points in voters' confidence in Biden's fitness for office.
The candidate who promised during the campaign to "shut down the virus, not the country" fell victim to high expectations following the administration's ramped up vaccination campaign.
As "hot vaxx summer" gave way to an ascending Delta variant, Biden's approval ratings were hollowing out from the middle with the correlation of independent voters and specific polling questions about his handling of the pandemic.
After sliding to 37% support among independents in Gallup's tracking poll by October, Biden began to see a notable dip from Democrats for the first time. After holding more than 90% approval among Democrats polled by Gallup through his first year in office, Biden fell to 78% by December as the Omicron variant began stretching the nation's testing capacity to its limits.
With the 2022 midterms less than a year out, Biden's job approval will increasingly become intertwined with the Democrats's ability to withstand what is historically a rough election for a newly elected president's party, according to FiveThirtyEight's data analysis.
Factors like economic sentiment and overall perceptions of the two major parties have also been key indicators of midterm outcomes historically, but with Biden's approval rating now stalled in the low 40 percentage points range across most trackers, it's starting to become too late for Democrats to dismiss his polling woes as too early to worry about.
Read the original article on Business Insider