Biden's standing among Americans nosedives in wake of rocky Afghanistan exit, COVID surge

Biden Faces the Fallout on Afghanistan

The decision alters the President’s standing abroad and at home.

As Labor Day marks the traditional close to summer, President Biden’s poll numbers are taking a hit.

Facing a barrage of bipartisan criticism for weeks over his handling of the turbulent U.S. withdrawal and evacuation from Afghanistan, and with a surge in new COVID cases due to the spread across the country this summer of the highly infectious delta variant, the president’s approval ratings are slipping.

Biden’s approval rating hovered in the low to mid 50s since taking office in late January. But his numbers started sliding last month, as the crisis in Afghanistan dominated media coverage and mask mandates started returning in certain spots across the country as coronavirus cases rose.

The president stands at 45%-49% approval/disapproval in an average of the last surveys compiled by RealClearPolitics, and at 46%-48% in a compilation by the polling and analysis website FiveThirtyEight.

Forty-four percent of Americans questioned in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released this weekend said they approved of the job Biden’s doing in the White House, down six points from June. Just over half of those polled (51%) gave the president a thumbs-down on how he’s handling his duties, a jump of nine points from June.

Gary Langer, the longtime director of polling at ABC News, highlighted that in data dating back to the Harry Truman administration, “only two presidents have had a lower approval rating at this point in their terms: Donald Trump, at 37% in August 2017, and Gerald Ford, also 37%, in March 1975.”

The ABC News/Washington Post poll, conducted Aug. 29-Sept 1, is among the latest national surveys to indicate that the rocky exit from Afghanistan, ending a two-decade U.S. military presence in the war-torn Central Asian country, is taking a toll on the president’s political standing.

The poll’s release followed by a day an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist national survey that indicated Biden at 43%-51%, the president’s lowest approval in Marist polling since taking office. The president stood at 46%-48% in an Ipsos national survey conducted Sept. 1-2.

Marist Poll director Lee Miringoff highlighted last week that “the end of this chapter of American involvement in Afghanistan has taken a significant toll on Biden’s standing with Americans.”

Similar to the Marist poll, the drop in Biden’s overall approval rating in the ABC News/Washington Post survey was fueled by a 14-point plunge in support among independents since late June and a significant slip among Democrats, from 94% approval to 86%. Republican disapproval of Biden – at 89% – was little changed from June.

President Biden speaks about the end of the war in Afghanistan from the State Dining Room of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Biden has been pilloried for his handling of the hastily organized evacuation efforts in Afghanistan. While the president has repeatedly declared the withdrawal and evacuation a success – the U.S. airlifted roughly 120,000 people, including more than 5,500 Americans, after the fall of Kabul through the end of August – he’s been accused by Republicans and some Democrats for underestimating the Taliban and overestimating the strength of the now-collapsed, U.S.-backed Afghan government and military.

Biden’s approval of handling the situation in Afghanistan stood at 30%-60% in the ABC News/Washington Post poll. Among the vast majority of Americans questioned in the survey who supported the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, by a two-to-one margin they disapproved of the way the president handled the withdrawal. 

But the late-summer COVID surge due to the delta variant is another gut punch to the president. Biden’s approval rating on handling the coronavirus in the new ABC News/Washington Post poll stands at 52%-41%. The president’s approval is down 10 points from June, when Biden stood at 62%-31%.

And with rising consumer prices this summer raising economic concerns, the president has also seen his approval on the economy slip, from 52%-41% in an ABC News/Washington Post poll in April to 45%-49%. The poll was conducted before Friday’s dismal unemployment report, which was another key indicator that the spread of the delta variant is hampering the economic recovery.

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