Six months into Joe Biden’s presidency, we are starting to see evidence that the tide may be turning against him. The main culprit is the Delta variant that has upended hopes of having turned the corner on COVID-19. But a confluence of concerns (like inflation, violent crime, and the border) are also helping erode optimism about the future.
Until recently, there was a sense that COVID-19 was waning and by competently overseeing the distribution of vaccines, Biden would preside over a recovery where life would return to normal and the economy would bounce back. But the Delta variant has caused us to reconsider and revise many of our assumptions, including the political implications of presiding over the recovery. Consider this tweet from Bill Kristol, the NeverTrump conservative who has been very pro-Biden: “I am alarmed… about COVID, and how the broad social and economic reopening people are counting on is at risk. And I’m alarmed [that] the Biden Administration doesn’t seem alarmed enough, and doesn’t seem to have enough urgency about this threat.” Thanks to the rise of the Delta variant, the U.S. has decided not to lift travel restrictions, and Goldman Sachs has decided to revise downwards a bit its forecast of surging economic growth.
Perhaps more concerning is a new ABC/Ipsos survey showing that Americans’ optimism about the country has “plummeted” almost 20 points in the last couple of months (as recently as May, this same poll showed Americans were optimistic about the future). Not surprisingly, it also shows a decrease in support for Biden’s handling of a wide range of issues, including COVID, immigration, crime and violence, and the country’s economic recovery. (On the economy, at least, this is not an outlier; an AP/NORC poll also shows that “Fewer than half, 45% [of Americans surveyed], judge the economy to be in good shape, while 54% say it’s in poor shape.”)