‘He’s fairly low’: As Biden marks one year in office, Marquette poll director breaks down approval rating, impact on midterms

MADISON, Wis. — Thursday marks one year since Joe Biden took the oath of office and was sworn in as the United States’ 46th president.

Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette University Law School poll, joined Live at Four to talk about where polls show Biden stands a year into his term.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

Susan Siman: So what does your polling show? Where is President Biden a year into his presidency?

Charles Franklin: “In terms of his job approval, he’s fairly low. His average in the polls is about 41% or 42% right now; that puts him a little bit above Donald Trump at the same point but below other post-war presidents at this point in the term, so that’s pretty bad, and it’s been flat for the last month or two after coming down kind of sharply in August and September, it’s more or less stable now, but it represents some loss of Democratic support as well as independents. In our Marquette Law School poll nationally, the president’s job approval fell by 13 points among independents since the summer but fell by 14 points among Democrats. So he may win some of those Democrats back but an open question is ‘Can he win some of those independents back?'”

Mark Koehn: And that could be a problem for the midterm elections?

Charles Franklin: “It’s very much an important part of midterm elections. Presidential job approval as we go into the midterms is one of the strongest predictors. The president’s party almost always loses seats in the House of Representatives, and it’s a more mixed picture in the Senate, but the better their job approval, the less their loss and the worse their job approval, the more their loss.”

Susan Siman: What is the balance sheet looking at successes and continued challenges?

Charles Franklin: “I think there are some successes. We’ve talked a lot about failures recently, but you can look back. First, there was the COVID relief bill that was passed early in his term with some bipartisan support and a substantial amount of money behind that bill. We also saw a pretty solid bipartisan vote on the infrastructure bill that was long delayed over the summer but did get passed and is a very substantial bill. There (are) one or two others that are pretty big but are languishing between the House and the Senate that might yet come to be, but then there are the big problems: the Build Back Better bill, which has… they’ve tried and tried and tried and failed to get it in, get it passed by the Senate. Negotiations sort of stalled, may be ongoing now. And then the voting rights bill, which failed to pass the Senate yesterday and failed to override the filibuster. So what we’ve seen is Democratic legislators and the president pushing again and again on these two big bills without any success, but I do think it’s worth noting that there’s been sort of more bipartisan votes on infrastructure and COVID relief than we might have expected given the rhetoric and especially given the focus on stalemate right now.”

Mark Koehn: Is there anything the president can do to turn those poll numbers around?

Charles Franklin: “Well, I think some legislative successes wouldn’t hurt, maybe refocusing after these attempts to pass some smaller things or one of the bills that’s stalled right now. (He) got a lot of bipartisan support for a bill for competitiveness with China and technology enhancement in the U.S. That was a pretty big bill, and it goes to the issues with China and the supply chain and other things. The Senate passed it with a lot of Republican votes; the House and Senate are negotiating over it, but that’s maybe a bill that the president could quickly get a success on. Finally, it is the second year of his term, he can focus on some things that have popular appeal and that he might get done, some by his own actions — executive orders — but I think most importantly trying to show that Democrats can pass some legislation and unite behind it, because at this point the moderate Democrats and the progressive Democrats have kind of stymied things even within the Democratic Party.