Biden’s Approval: Like Obama’s – Only Weaker

Jul 27, 2009 12:00pm

Joe Biden’s predilection for wandering off the reservation in his public pronouncements hasn’t done much to harm overall his job performance rating, quite similar to the boss’. But in strength of sentiment Biden lags considerably – particularly in his own party.

Overall 55 percent of Americans in our most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Biden’s work in office while 33 percent disapprove, much like President Obama’s 59-37 percent, with somewhat more undecided. But Biden is less strongly popular. Obama’s “strong” approvers outnumber his strong disapprovers by 10 points, 38 percent to 28 percent. Biden’s, by contrast, are even, 20 and 21 percent, respectively.

While the top guy customarily draws more heat as well as more light, this also may reflect the impact of Biden’s occasional eyebrow-raisers. Latest, published this weekend, was his sharp criticism of Russia’s leadership, an odd note after Obama’s diplomatic overtures there. (This poll preceded that apparent stumble.) Early this month, in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Biden controversially suggested the United States would not block Israeli military action against Iran, and said the administration had “misread how bad the economy was.”

It’s among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents that Biden’s absence of strong support is clearest. Obama has 61 percent strong approval in this group; Biden, 32 percent. At the same time, Biden engenders much milder disapproval from leaned Republicans: Thirty-nine percent strongly disapprove, vs. Obama’s 58 percent.

           Approve         DisapproveAll:   NET Strgly Smwht  NET Smwht StrglyBiden  55%   20    36    33    12    21     Obama  59    38    22    37     9    28

Leaned Dems:Biden  76%   32    44    16     7     8Obama  86    61    25    12     4     7 

Leaned Reps:Biden  29%    4    26    59     20   39   Obama  25     8    17    72     14   58

Both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were broadly unpopular at the end of their two terms in January, with approval ratings of 33 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Bush engendered 10 points more “strong” sentiment, either pro or con, than Cheney; there’s a bigger gap now, 25 points, between Obama and Biden.

Overall approval of Obama and Biden follows similar patters across demographic groups, with Biden’s numbers a bit lower, and undecideds a bit higher, across the board. One of Obama’s best groups, for instance, is young adults; he has a 74 percent approval rating from people under 30 – a group he won by a record margin in the November election. Biden, similarly, has a 66 percent approval rating from young adults, his best age group, though at age 66 he’d seem to have less generational affinity with this population.

That underscores how vice presidents tend to labor under the president’s shadow. In ABC News/Washington Post polls since 1989, approval ratings for presidents and their vice presidents (the latter measured far less often) have correlated at .87, an extremely close association.

Click here for a PDF with the full questionnaire.

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