(TNS) President Joe Biden’s approval rating dropped below 50 percent this week for the first time during his presidency.
The decline coincides with the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban two weeks ahead of Biden’s imposed deadline to have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and with a continued surge in COVID-19 cases as the highly contagious delta variant spreads rapidly throughout the country.
But Biden’s approval rating is still higher than his average disapproval rating and remains higher than — or around the same as — recent former presidents during the same point in their terms, according to data from poll analysis site FiveThirtyEight.
Biden’s average approval rating dipped below 50 percent, to 49.9 percent, for the first time during his presidency on Monday, polling averages from FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics show.
It has continued to fall since then — to 49.3 percent per FiveThirtyEight and 49.6 percent per RealClearPolitics as of Wednesday.
But more people still approve of Biden than disapprove. On Wednesday, his average disapproval rate was 44.2 percent per FiveThirtyEight and 47.2 percent per RealClearPolitics.
Additionally, Biden’s approval rating is close to or higher than those of his recent predecessors for the same time period.
On day 211 in office, former President Donald Trump’s average approval rating was 37.8 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight. Former Presidents Barack Obama’s and George W. Bush’s approval ratings were 52 percent and 52.3 percent, respectively.
Since taking office in January, Biden’s approval rating has hovered between 50 percent and about 55 percent before this week’s drop.
FiveThirtyEight said in an analysis it’s too soon to determine the full impact Biden’s handling of the Afghanistan situation will have on his approval rating but that his handling of the pandemic has seen his rating “already taken a hit.”
Biden’s falling approval rating comes as the Taliban has quickly regained control in Afghanistan, nearly two decades after a U.S.-led invasion ousted them from power, and amid waning support for U.S. withdrawal from the country.
The Taliban seized Kabul, the country’s capital, on Sunday. Chaos then erupted Monday at the city’s airport as thousands of Afghans flooded the runway in attempt to escape the Taliban, forcing evacuations to pause.
The U.S. military has since secured the airport and resumed evacuating diplomats and civilians, Axios reports. Biden authorized the deployment of thousands of troops to secure the airfield and assist with evacuations. He also approved the allocation of up to $500 million toward relocating Afghan refugees.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll released Monday found support for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan dropped 20 points, from 69 percent to 49 percent, since April, when Biden announced plans to have all U.S. troops out of the country by Sept. 11. The poll also found that 51 percent of respondents disapprove of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan.
Biden has defended his decision on Afghanistan, saying Monday there was “never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces” and pointing to a deal that Trump negotiated with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces by May 1.
“There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict,” Biden said.
The drop in Biden’s approval rating also coincides with a worsening COVID-19 situation. The delta variant has been spreading across the country, sparking coronavirus outbreaks and prompting new guidance from public health officials and new mask or vaccine mandates in some areas.
Biden’s approval rating on his handling of the pandemic has sat around the low 60s for much of his presidency, according to FiveThirtyEight. But it dipped to 54.4 percent on Wednesday.
A recent Gallup poll also found that there’s less optimism on the pandemic’s surge — with 45 percent saying they think the coronavirus situation is getting worse and 40 percent saying they think it’s getting better.
Biden said earlier this month this is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and encouraged people to get a vaccine, saying that those who are not vaccinated are “much more likely to, one, get COVID-19, two, get hospitalized and, three, die if you get it.”
“COVID-19 is a national challenge, and we must come together — we have to come together — all of us together, as a country, to solve it,” he said.