We're not as divided as people think.
A Gallup poll released November 30 found that president-elect Joe Biden's approval rating has improved six points since the election (55%), compared to President Trump, whose favorability has dropped three percentage points to 42%.
One of the major reasons for Biden's 13% lead in favorability over the outgoing president is his popularity among independent voters where he leads Trump 55% to 36%.
Should Biden's ratings hold through his inauguration it would mark a big change over the previous presidential election in 2016 when Trump took office with a 45% approval rating.
Biden's popularity with a majority of American voters could signal a return to political normalcy after the chaotic Trump era. When Trump took office, his low approval rating was uncharacteristic of an incoming president.
However, it mirrored the low favorability ratings he took into the election that were offset by Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton who was in a similar position.
Americans tend to have favorable opinions of newly-elected presidents. It's an indication that the heated partisan rancor of the election cycle has cooled and that many Americans who didn't vote for the president-elect are willing to give them a shot.
The fact that they seem to be rallying around Joe Biden shows that the country may be able to regress to the mean after Trump's war on American institutions left many feeling the country wouldn't bounce back. It also shows that Joe Biden's attempt to present himself as a president "for all Americans" seems to have resonated with some.
When Barack Obama took office in 2009 he had a 67% approval rating. Bill Clinton, who only won 43% of the popular vote, took office with a 58% approval rating, and George W. Bush, who went through an arduous Supreme Court battle to win in 2000, assumed office with a 57% rating.
George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan both took office with 51% approval ratings and Jimmy Carter carried a 66% rating into his inauguration.
The fact that Americans feel positive about Joe Biden as he assumes office shouldn't be too shocking due to his general popularity as a political figure. Three weeks before the election Biden had a net favorability of plus one (43% to 42%), whereas Trump had a -11, (42% positive and 53% negative).
At the same point in 2016, Hillary Clinton was at -10.
Gallup has been tracking the approval ratings of the U.S. presidents since Harry S. Truman took office in 1945 and Trump is the only president to never pass the 50% threshold in approval.
Trump hit 49% in both March and May of 2020, but then had a deep slide as Americans began to believe that he wasn't taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. Trump's lowest approval rating of 34% came in 2017 after his disastrous response to the "Unite the Right" rally in which he claimed there were good people "on both sides" of an alt-right rally.
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