Biden’s Long Slide: How Republicans Could Take Congress

With the 2022 midterm elections only six months away, Republicans hold a solid lead in polling. What caused President Joe Biden’s slide in approval ratings, and what midterm results can be expected?

Biden is not expected to make any significant course corrections before the midterms. That means a Republican takeover of the Senate and House looks inevitable.

Republicans hold solid leads in polling, while Biden’s are stalled at historic low levels.

President Biden came into office with approval ratings hovering around 60% and momentum behind his progressive agendas. The outlook for Democrats looked promising and stayed high throughout the spring and summer — until the failure of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

If one key event can be pinpointed as the beginning of the slide, the exit from Afghanistan is it. 

Afghan break

The resulting chaos proved a strategic failure. The military chaotically left the country, putting the U.S. military at risk and stranding U.S. citizens and Afghani allies.

Strategic losses, including underestimating the strength of the Taliban, abandoning Bagram Air Force Base and failing to adequately plan an organized evacuation, negatively affected Biden’s poll numbers. 

The Biden administration reacted to public criticism by claiming the chaos was “inevitable.” He said the blame lies with American citizens living there, the Afghan people, former President Donald Trump, and his own military advisors. Biden also claimed the pullout was an “extraordinary success.”

The failure in Afghanistan sent Biden’s numbers sinking fast. The president’s numbers have plummeted from the low 60s to the low 40s, where they remain.

While many political analysts recommend the Biden administration make a course correction before the midterms, others predict the president will move further left — regulating domestic energy production, forgiving student loans, and restricting the 2nd Amendment.

Increasing pessimism over the economy

With the “Build Back Better” infrastructure plan all but dead, Democrats know their political future may be as well. Inflation has reached historic highs with no end in sight and rumblings of a recession growing louder. 

A March Grinnell College poll showed a drop in President Biden’s job approval rating from 37 to 34 percent. Fifty-two percent of Americans disapproved of his job performance, while 14% remained unsure. 

Americans said key issues of concern were:

  • The economy
  • Biden’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine

Biden received low marks on his administration’s response to the war in Ukraine and the economy.

A majority of Americans, a staggering 58% of respondents, say they believe the economy will be worse in a year than it is today. That pessimistic outlook percentage is the highest number in the Grinnell College National Poll history.

Only 27% responded that they believe the economy will improve in a year, a 20% drop when compared to this time last year.

According to Peter Hanson, Grinnell College National Poll director, “The collapse in economic confidence means that President Biden and congressional Democrats face strong headwinds as they head into the November elections.

“Midterm elections are frequently a referendum on the administration’s performance, and these numbers are a sign that the judgment from voters is likely to be harsh. Absent a major change, Republicans are well-positioned to take control of Congress.”

Forty-seven percent of Americans approve of the president’s handling of the pandemic, compared to 44% who disapprove, with 9% remaining unsure.

In Ukraine, 72% of Americans approve of Biden’s sending weapons to help Ukraine’s fight against Russia. However, most Americans disapprove of how Biden has handled the situation. Only 37% of respondents approve of Biden’s handling of the Ukraine crisis, while 48% disapprove.

According to Danielle Lussier, Grinnell College associate professor of political science, “There is a disconnect. We see broad support for the approach the president has taken — sending weapons but not troops — but the population doesn’t want to give Biden credit for it.”