An incoherent look at Biden’s popularity

President Biden. Photo (cc) 2020 by Gage Skidmore.

Is President Biden historically unpopular? Or is he simply experiencing a drop-off that’s similar to what many of his predecessors have gone through?

Nate Cohn of The New York Times tries his hand at analyzing Biden’s popularity — and I don’t know what he’s saying. Consider this:

The president’s approval ratings have sunk into the low-to-mid 40s, putting him into rather lonely historical company. In the era of modern polling, only Donald J. Trump had a lower approval rating at this early stage of his term.

Whoa! That’s not good. But then there’s this:

Many presidents have won re-election after watching their ratings fall to similar depths during their first two years in office.

And this:

Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all saw their ratings sink as low as Mr. Biden’s are today, before ultimately recovering to win re-election.

Cohn is a numbers guy, and I regard him as one of the more reliable journalists at the Times. But this is just incoherent.

5 thoughts on “An incoherent look at Biden’s popularity

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Paul: Brilliant piece, though way too long — I read about two-thirds of it and then skipped to the end. I love this: “When you fill your news columns with stuff that is only ten per cent news, I suppose you create in the reader’s mind a doubt that any of it is news.”

  1. Steve Ross

    Cohn is saying Biden fell to the mid-40s rather earlier than others. Of course this means little or nothing, but (ahem) if on the one hand you need to get a story out, but on the other hand have no basis for a conclusion because Presidents and world events are not identical like golf balls, math is your friend.

    You can just throw numbers around. On the one hand, a few readers might see through your obfuscation. But on the other hand, your editor won’t. In fact, your editor will note that he or she or they hadn’t actually read it before publication.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Steve, Cohn usually offers a rather detailed statistical analysis. This piece is nearly devoid of numbers. I don’t know why they ran it as-is.

      1. Steve Ross

        Or they may have taken something out. The norm would be a multi-line chart, % approval or % approval-disapproval, starting on election day and going out two years, for each elected president. As long as I wasn’t doing regressions I would smooth the lines by rolling a two-week average.

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