Politics

Biden Favorability Trails Obama and Recent VPs

by Lydia Saad

Favorable views of Biden have dropped from 59% to 48% since November

PRINCETON, NJ -- In contrast to U.S. President Barack Obama, whose current favorable rating among Americans is similar to what it was just after the November election, Vice President Joe Biden has seen some erosion in his rating. As a result, Biden lags significantly behind Obama in popularity, and, at this stage of the new administration, has the lowest favorable rating of any of the most recent vice presidents.

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Forty-eight percent of Americans now view Biden favorably, down from 53% in January and 59% in the first few days after the election.

Being tapped as Obama's running mate last summer raised Biden's public profile tremendously -- evidenced by increases in both his favorable and his unfavorable ratings after the Democratic National Convention. There was a corresponding decline (from 51% to 21%) in the percentage of Americans having no opinion of him. By October, Biden's "no opinion" rating had fallen to 15% and his favorable rating had increased to 57%. His favorable rating had remained above 50% in all subsequent Gallup measures, until now.

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President Obama's favorable rating jumped to an extraordinarily high 78% near the end of his presidential transition in January. However, apart from that single reading (driven by atypically high support from Republicans during that period), his favorable rating has consistently registered in the 60s since November, and is 66% in the latest reading from a July 10-12 Gallup Poll.

The decline in Biden's favorability score since November has occurred mostly among Democrats and independents. Over this period, his favorable rating fell eight points among Republicans, 12 points among Democrats, and 17 points (from 55% to 38%) among independents.

Just since January, Biden's favorable rating from Democrats has held steady, but has dropped roughly 10 points among both independents and Republicans.

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A USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted July 17-19 contains the first job approval rating of the new vice president. The results are very close to his favorable ratings, with 49% of Americans saying they approve of the job Biden is doing and 39% saying they disapprove.

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Comparison to Previous Administrations

The recent departure between Americans' impressions of Biden and their impressions of Obama can be contrasted with the consistently similar ratings given to former President George W. Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney during Bush's two terms as president, as well as the ratings of former President Bill Clinton and his Vice President Al Gore during the eight years prior to that. (Gallup instituted the current favorability measure in 1992, so it's not possible to compare Biden's ratings to those of Dan Quayle as George H.W. Bush's vice president in the first year of that administration, in 1989.)

From 2001 to 2007, Bush typically had a slightly higher favorable rating than did Cheney -- seven points higher, on average. Some of this difference could be explained by the higher level of Americans expressing no opinion about Cheney than about Bush, averaging 10% for Cheney across both terms, versus 2% for Bush. With fewer Americans holding a view of Cheney, he was at a slight disadvantage with Bush in direct comparisons of the two men's favorable ratings.

Still, Bush's favorability advantage only twice expanded into the teens, and both of these times came in 2002, when Bush's favorable ratings were still soaring after the Sept. 11 attacks. (Gallup did not ask this question about Cheney in 2008 -- hence, the omission of the last year of the Bush presidency from this analysis.)

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Similarly, Americans' perceptions of Bill Clinton and Al Gore were generally quite similar from 1993 through 2000, except for one reading in 1994, when Gore was viewed significantly more favorably than Clinton (56% vs. 47%), and two periods (late 1997 and late 1999-2000) in Clinton's second term when there were larger-than-normal gaps between the two.

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Bottom Line

Biden is not keeping up with Obama in popularity, and this distinguishes him from the previous two vice presidents, whose public images generally kept pace with those of their respective presidents. At this stage of the Bush and Clinton presidencies, both sitting vice presidents -- Cheney and Gore, respectively -- had favorable ratings very similar to those of the presidents with whom they served, and lower unfavorables.

Biden's image problem has been in evidence only since the inauguration, as his favorable ratings since January have been close to or greater than 20 points lower than Obama's; around election time, Biden trailed the president by fewer than 10 points.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,018 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 10-12, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Other results are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 17-19, 2009. For these results, the maximum margin of error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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