Although Joe Biden made it clear that taming the spread of the virus is one of his priorities, the United States is still plagued with surging cases, a source of frustration for the President.
This week marks one year since U.S. President Joe Biden took office, with plummeting approval ratings and unresolved key priorities.
A year ago when Biden spoke to a divided nation, weeks after the U.S. Capitol riot, he said he would bring back unity and do "great things." The country, however, witnessed one hurdle after another in 2021, with everything from a catastrophic response to the COVID-19 pandemic to the debacle in Afghanistan and from high inflation to surging gun violence across the country.
Biden, after succeeding in an intense presidential race, began his term with approval ratings of 56 percent, according to a RealClearPolitics polling average. But his approval ratings in January droped to 40.9 percent, the lowest point since he took office.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its messy impact on the economy and society are reportedly the biggest weight on the Biden's administration. Although Biden has made it clear that taming the spread of the virus is one of his priorities, the country is still plagued with surging cases, a source of frustration for the President.
As of Wednesday, over 68 million COVID-19 cases were reported across the United States, roughly one fifth of the U.S. population. In addition, over 857,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in the country so far. And nearly 800,000 new cases and nearly 1,800 new deaths are recorded on a daily basis, up significantly week by week.
The pandemic has not been the only factor causing Biden's poor approval ratings, with economic headwinds also denting his performance.
While the country's employment rebounded somewhat in the past year, with 6.4 million jobs added, total employment remains lower than its pre-pandemic level, local media reported. Some U.S. industries have been confronted with a labour crisis, leading to supply-chain disruptions and rising inflation.
The country's consumer price index jumped 7 percent last year, the fastest pace since 1982, according to the country's labor department. Core consumer prices, which excludes food and energy, grew by 5.5 percent since last year, the biggest 12-month rise since 1991. A CNBC and Change Research poll released earlier this month found that 60 percent of people disapproved of how the government handled the economy.
"The virus is disrupting the economy and daily life in ways that voters care about," more than the current low unemployment and high GDP growth, said Christopher Galdieri, an assistant professor at Saint Anselm College.
"People's votes in part are a referendum on the president. So the more popular he is later in the year, the better Democrats will do," said Darrell West, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution.
"Raising economic growth is critical to future electoral success and how people judge his presidency," he added.
To improve his popularity, Biden needs inflation to go down and the pandemic to recede to the point something like normal life becomes possible again -- much as it was, say, early last summer.
Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, holds that the main object for Biden should not be focused on increasing his polling numbers. Rather, his goal should be to get something done besides passing the infrastructure bill that he signed into law in recent months, as well as to improve the quality of life for Americans.