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Joe Biden seems like sort of a "Goldilocks candidate" in the sense that he is not too far to the left, and not really on the right, at least not anymore. There is a phenomenon called the "rally round the flag" effect, which would seemingly benefit Biden because of his handling of the pandemic, which was a crisis.

There are some moderate Republican governors in some of the most heavily Democratic states in the country who have taken liberal social stances but more pro-business as well who have insanely high, Bush 9/11 level approval ratings. What makes this even crazier is polling consistently shows a number of them are more popular with Democrats.

More pertinent to the discussion is that some presidents had very high and thus bipartisan approval ratings, at least during certain times, like Bush did in the months following 9/11, Obama during most of his presidency, and many others. Why hasn't Biden been able to get a "rally round the flag effect"?

Note: I know that this sounds like an opinion question on the surface, but it is not intended that way. It is based on factual contexts, such as rally round the flag among other things. I also say so because he has characteristics that have led to high approvals in the past: moderation, desire for unity, and a crisis (COVID-19).

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  • I mean more specifically about times of crisis for part of this question. This is not a pro-Democrat or pro-Republican question. May 30 at 16:28
  • I think it's bac largely on why he became the president. May 30 at 18:38
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    61% of Republicans and a sizable minority of independents think Biden stole the election. Biden could personally invent a cure for cancer and his approval rating amongst that half of the voters who think the election was stolen would remain in the single digits. May 30 at 19:02
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    "Obama during most of his presidency," Obama's approval was sub 50% for much of his two terms. He did have a short (6 month) "honeymoon" but apart from a short time during the 2012 campaign he was below the waterline.
    – James K
    May 30 at 19:08
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    @DavidHammen Not to mention that Trump campaigned with his "Radical Left" Kool-Aid. Even if they're clear-witted enough to realize the election wasn't stolen, some proportion of Rep voters are probably expecting black suited men to take away their guns and open up massive collective farms somewhere. I'm surprised it's that high, really and I am surprised the OP, of all people, had to ask this question as he's quite into polls and voter analysis. May 30 at 19:39
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(This is only about Covid's particular rally around the flag effect.)

I don't see why rally around the flag would apply now. Covid's been going for 18 months, so it is not a new crisis that POTUS is valiantly responding to.

Trump did get a short rally around the flag effect, around April or May last year, when he talked about the gravity of the situation and told Americans to expect many deaths. Except for that short span, the way parts of the public views the handling of this disease has been one endless stream of polarized political perception, with one camp seeing white, the other seeing black.

The way Biden is handling covid has been taking are at odds, to say the least, with the methods of Trump. But Trump's handling was known to voters heading into November's elections and they still almost voted him in. Mask mandates for example, genuinely annoy some people.

To be fair also, the sudden turn in circumstances in the US is largely due to vaccinations. Vaccine work was started on Trump's watch and he was consistently claiming their immediate arrival to bolster his approval and to sidestep criticism of the rest of his actions. So some will feel that Biden "stole" Trump's work in that area. Had covid started 6 months earlier and vaccinations taken effect by November... Trump 2020!

(If only they followed that line of thinking to the point where they all took "Trump's vaccine", life would be good.)

If you want to look at flag rallying effects of POTUS parties transitioning during a crisis, you could look at Eisenhower's 1952 election which happened during the Korean war. Or indeed the 1968 election where Nixon took over from the LBJ administration during the Vietnam War.

Which brings to mind: rally around the flag only works if the situation hasn't been going on long enough, and going badly enough, that the electorate blames a POTUS instead.

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    Re "...one endless stream of polarized political perception...": if a flat earther were to engage a charitable science historian elucidating the many reasons scientists came to accept the fact of a spherical earth, no instance of such a lame "controversy", even if it became quite heated, could logically imply the kindly historian was polarized. Similarly, since COVID and public health experts who specialize in pandemics both actually exist, the hectoring of propagandizing cranks would not "polarize" followers of expert opinion, anymore than a fog bank polarizes the sunlight.
    – agc
    May 31 at 6:08
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    @agc Well, you may equally well say that economic experts say that prolonged lockdowns devastate economy, while education experts are worried that distant learning denies young kids of low SES any chance to catch up. Trust the science, case solved. Unless of course one try to deal with issue in a bit more subtle way and try to balance contradictory aims. (though, as the answer correctly pointed out in polarized environment such balanced decision become harder)
    – Shadow1024
    May 31 at 7:19
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    @Shadoe1024 economics experts, health experts, and everything else experts all agree: just don't spread the virus for a few weeks and then it will go away and there will be no prolonged lockdown. But that was too easy for the USA
    – user253751
    May 31 at 9:01
  • @agc After re-reading this 3 times I still don't understand what you are trying to say. May 31 at 14:58
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    @agc Why would it? This isn't a question about pandemic procedures to follow - as I've said before, a virus is not political in nature. However, this question is about political perception of a POTUS handling a public crisis and propagandized but inane pseudo-controversy, if you wish to label them so, are very much in play regarding how a polarized electorate reacts to how POTUS handles the pandemic. Whether said controversies have any basis or not in scientific reality doesn't really matter, for the purposes of this question. May 31 at 20:55

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