How Virginia’s Gubernatorial Election Became a Referendum on the Biden Presidency

Voting in the United States often seems like a popularity contest. Although presidential candidates are only on the ballot once every four years, their names are always in the minds of voters. Dozens of major polling organizations survey likely voters on their approval of prominent officials, most notably, the president of the United States. These polls have serious implications, as poor approval ratings can tarnish public opinion on an entire political party.

Last week’s gubernatorial election in Virginia was largely a referendum on the Biden presidency. President Joe Biden attended several campaign events in support of Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. As it turns out, however, McAuliffe’s public alignment with Biden may have been a costly decision. On the date of Virginia’s gubernatorial election, President Biden’s approval rating hovered around just 40%. When considering that Biden won the state of Virginia in 2020 with over 54% of the vote, it becomes clear that many voters shifted away from the president’s messages. 

Many political analysts account Biden’s recent drop in popularity to supply chain issues, coronavirus fatigue, and the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Whatever the reason, however, his administration received a large portion of the blame following McAuliffe’s defeat last Tuesday. 

By themselves, these presidential approval polls have no direct consequence, but they can offer insight into the current political landscape. U.S. voters naturally associate their feelings toward President Biden with the Democratic party as a whole. This means that Democrats could face an uphill battle in the 2022 midterm elections if Biden continues to be unpopular. Public opinion is constantly evolving, but polls do their best to measure and quantify these changes. Presidential approval polls have been taken for every president since Harry Truman and they will continue to be taken centuries into the future. 

By: Jack DebBaruah

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