Who Averaged Higher Approval Ratings At the End of the First Year of Their Presidency, Donald Trump or Joseph Biden?

Joel Eisenberg

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Artwork for 10/6/2020 Presidential DebateAlexander Hamilton Society promotional poster, Public Domain

Introduction

As it is not possible to determine a binary national perspective on presidential job performance due to bias, the three polls I have chosen for this average have been selected due to their reputations for impartiality: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Maris, Gallup, and Pew Research Center.

Writing impartially about modern-day politics is a risky venture, especially if partisanship interferes with one’s journalistic integrity. I will not be discussing my personal thoughts on either President in this piece. Instead, I will focus on the aforementioned three major U.S. polls and present their results during each President’s first year in office.

It should be noted the U.S. experienced periods of adjustment during the first year of both Presidents. Most of the major polls agree Trump brought a more openly-combative leadership style to his office than many were used to seeing, while Biden stumbled on Covid-19 protocols and foreign issues, most notably ending the war in Afghanistan when many polled believed we were not yet ready for such long-discussed action.

An important note: What follows in this article is neither opinion nor editorial. What is presented herein contains complete attributions from all listed polls and is solely based upon those results.

Polls

1. Both Trump and Biden found their first year in office fraught with below-average public approval ratings from the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Trump: According to the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released January 18, 2018, former President Trump had a tumultuous first year in office with a 40% approval rating. See here for NPR’s article on the matter: “Majority of Americans See Trump’s First Year as a Failure.” From the article: Americans give Trump relatively positive marks on his handling of ISIS and the state of the economy — no small things. But they disapprove of his handling of just about every other issue or think things have gotten worse — from their views of the tax plan to the state of race relations and women's rights to immigration, health care, the deficit and foreign policy, including his approach to North Korea.

Biden: According to the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released December 20, 2021, President Biden’s first year in office was reported as dire. See here for article from U.S. News & World Report, “Biden Approval Hits Historic Low, Poll Says,” which states just 41% of Americans polled have approved of Biden’s first year efforts. From the article: The poll, conducted from Dec. 11-13, coincides with a surge in coronavirus cases, as the nation is once again grappling with a new variant, while rising consumer prices mark another abnormal holiday season. Meanwhile, the president’s congressional clout is in question as his legislative agenda stalls on Capitol Hill.

The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll reflects President Biden has maintained a slightly higher approval rating during his first year in office, 41% to Trump’s 40%.

2. Gallup polling of Trump and Biden’s first year in office has shown similar numbers.

Trump: Gallup’s approval rating for Donald Trump’s first year in office were slightly lower than the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, at 38.4%. This number, however, was noted as 10% lower than the previous low, which belonged to Bill Clinton during his first year in office. See Gallup article on the matter here, “Trump's First-Year Job Approval Worst by 10 Points.”

Biden: Gallup reported in December of 2021 that Joe Biden’s present approval stood at 43%, while noting his numbers stayed steady from September with only a one-point fluctuation. See here for “Joe Biden's Job Approval Rating Steady in December.” His Gallup numbers skewed in July during the controversial Afghanistan troops withdrawal, where until then he received support over 50% and in the low-40s since.

The Gallup poll reflects Joseph Biden has maintained a lead in his first year, averaging 43% (the same average as his December result) to Donald Trump’s 38.4%.

3. The Pew Research Center reported Donald Trump’s first-year approval ratings at 37%, and Joe Biden’s approval at 44% (in a poll taken in September while awaiting current numbers, expected by pollsters to remain within that realm), where they reported the same reasons for each President as the other polls.

It should also be noted that Biden’s approvals were over 50% in the majority of general polls when he took office, and have fallen drastically during the second half-year. Regardless, Biden also has the edge here.

Conclusion

As we saw during the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump polling, where Hillary was in most circles largely favored to win, polls are an imperfect science and generally claim the possibility of a small + or - percentage offset in their samples. I have deliberately left out partisan sampling in this article, such as those from FOX and MSNBC, for example, which have been accused of being right and left-leaning, respectively.

These polls do not mean one President is more popular than the other. What is illustrated above are reported results from three distinct polls for job approval during each President’s first year in office.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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