By Alex Lazo
The leaves are turning, the midterm elections are coming, and Denison is changing… to conservative partisanship? Perhaps not necessarily, but according to 127’s most recent poll in October, President Biden received only a 53.1% approval rating from the Denison community.
While this statistic may not appear to be highly disconcerting, it certainly causes an eyebrow raise when comparing it to Denison’s political affiliation distribution. Based on the results of this survey, only 17% of the student body is affiliated with the Republican Party. For starters, this odium was not always the case. When Denison students were asked the same question in March 2021, President Biden received a 68.9% approval rating. If that is the case, what is causing such high disapproval of how President Biden is handling his job when the majority of the population identifies as Democratic? Let’s take a look.
The figures below show the breakdown of Biden’s approval rating by partisanship from our two most recent surveys in October 2022 and February 2022. Here we can see that the Republican disapproval rating has continued to increase, while the approval rating amongst Democrats and Independents is low but has slightly improved.
What is most noteworthy is that although two out of three political partisans have shown an increase of approval, the school’s overall approval rating remains low. With 68.5% of the student body describing themselves as Democratic, what is up with all of the hate against a Democratic President? Long story short – it all boils down to the dead presidents on green paper.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, every year one of the main concerns of the average citizen is the economy. The policies that Biden and his party propose are what influence the outcome of the economy. Furthermore, presidents are notoriously blamed for the economy whether it is their fault or not, and with the Democratic Party controlling both the House and the Senate, President Biden is certainly taking the hit for the current economic state. Right now, fears of a recession are looming and the rising interest rates and inflation are definitely affecting his approval rating across the country.
Even though the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates to try to curb inflation, people still look at Biden’s presidency with disdain because this has only made it more difficult for consumers to get a loan. Despite the 5% increase in wages, people are still living paycheck to paycheck because the price of everyday consumer goods such as groceries and gas have increased along with it.
Similar to the rest of the country, in March 2022 more than half of Denison’s student body reported having high-stress levels regarding their personal finances. The distress over personal finances is visibly linked to how Denison perceives Biden. In the figure below, the relationship between financial concerns, partisanship, and Biden’s approval rating is tested with a dumbbell plot. The blue points with a “D” indicate those who disapprove and the red points with an “A” indicate the students that approve of him. The gray bar between the two points represents how significant the gap between the two groups is. This plot highlights that students who disapprove of Biden have much greater worries about the state of their finances. With the exception of two outliers, the students who lean Republican and those who identify as strong Democrats, it seems clear that those who disapprove of Biden’s job performance have a higher consideration of their finances.
President Biden and the Democratic Party currently control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, meaning they set the agenda on fiscal spending and regulation. Additionally, Biden is also responsible for nominating and hiring the seven governors of the Federal Reserve – the agency that sets the monetary prices – thus, now that a recession is on the horizon and midterm elections are just about a month away, the progressive to conservative shift is highly anticipated.
Based on what Denison’s student body projected in October, it is reasonable to presume that the reason there was a higher disapproval rating in February was due to the 7.9% rise in inflation, and not because the campus was suddenly embodying a conservative ideology. However, if the economy continues to fluctuate, it is safe to assume that Biden’s approval rating will do the same, so stay tuned.
Alex Lazo is a Political Science major who spends her time trying to void her copious amounts of parking tickets. If you don’t look very hard, you can find her car parked in a personal spot that she has forcefully created…yet again.