Skip to content
Jonathan Bernstein

Look! It’s a Sign Democracy Isn't Totally Broken

A surprisingly normal result: President Biden’s poll numbers stopped dropping when the economy and Covid-19 improved. 

Political polarization isn’t in charge. Yet.

Political polarization isn’t in charge. Yet.

Photographer: Patricia Marroquin/Moment RF

Lots of things are broken right now in US politics. The good news is that there’s new evidence that one important thing is working just fine: When bad things happen presidents get less popular, and when good things happen? Their approval ratings improve.

Six weeks ago
, President Joe Biden’s approval ratings were falling rapidly. That continued into July, eventually reaching a low point of 37.5%, according to FiveThirtyEight. He’s recovered a fair amount, gaining three percentage points over the last 30 days.

No one can prove why Biden’s numbers have bounced back, but two major drags on American life during his presidency — gas prices and Covid-19 cases — are finally dropping at the same time in recent weeks. Jobs, meanwhile, remain strong while overall inflation is still high, but tailing off. As a result, overall perceptions of the economy are rising.

There have been other positive developments in the news — including some Biden is more directly responsible for — but the history of approval ratings suggest that they are less likely to be affected by passing bills and signing them into law.