Biden approval drops to lowest of seven-month presidency after Taleban takeover

US President Joe Biden delivering remarks on the crisis in Afghanistan on Aug 16, 2021.
US President Joe Biden delivering remarks on the crisis in Afghanistan on Aug 16, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - President Joe Biden's approval rating dropped by seven percentage points and hit its lowest level so far as the US-backed Afghan government collapsed over the weekend in an upheaval that sent thousands of civilians and Afghan military allies fleeing for their safety, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The national opinion poll, conducted on Monday, found that 46 per cent of American adults approved of Biden's performance in office, the lowest recorded in weekly polls that started when Biden took office in January.

It is also down from the 53 per cent who felt the same way in a similar Reuters/Ipsos poll that ran on Friday.

Biden's popularity dropped as the Taleban brushed aside Afghan forces and entered the capital, Kabul, wiping away two decades of US military presence that cost trillions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of American lives.

However, a majority of both Republican and Democratic voters said the chaos was a sign that the United States should leave.

A separate Ipsos snap poll, also conducted on Monday, found that fewer than half of Americans liked the way Biden has steered the US military and diplomatic effort in Afghanistan this year.

The president, who just last month praised Afghan forces for being "as well-equipped as any in the world," was rated worse than the other three presidents who presided over the United States' longest war.

The United States and Western allies continued to evacuate diplomats and civilians on Tuesday (Aug 17), one day after Afghans crowded into Kabul airport in a desperate attempt to flee the Taleban regime.

Americans expressed a variety of opinions that may still be evolving as the Taleban completes its takeover of the country.

The Ipsos poll found that 75 per cent of Americans supported the decision to send in additional troops to secure key facilities in Afghanistan until the withdrawal is complete, and about the same number supported the evacuation of Afghans who helped US forces in the country.

Yet Americans appeared to be largely unsettled on what to think of the war, with majorities expressing somewhat contradictory views about what the US military should have done.

For example, a majority of the 18 to 65-year-olds who took the Ipsos survey - 68 per cent - agreed that the war "was going to end badly, no matter when the US left," and 61 per cent wanted the United States to complete its withdrawal of troops on schedule.

Yet a smaller majority - 51 per cent - also agreed that "it would have been worth it for the United States to leave troops in Afghanistan another year," and 50 per cent wanted to send troops back into the country to fight the Taleban.

In many cases, Republicans and Democrats appeared to share the same outlook on the war: six in 10 Republicans and seven in 10 Democrats agreed, for example, that the swift capitulation of the Afghan government "is evidence why the US should get out of the conflict."

About 44 per cent of respondents said they thought Biden has done a "good job" in Afghanistan. In comparison, 51 per cent praised the way former presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama handled the war.

Approval of Biden's handling of Afghanistan is even lower than that of former president George W. Bush, who has been vilified by members of his own party for invading the country and entrenching the United States in the costly and ultimately futile effort.

About 47 per cent of Americans felt that Bush did a good job in Afghanistan.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 947 American adults, including 403 Democrats and 350 Republicans.

The results have a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 4 percentage points.

The Ipsos online snap poll gathered responses from 1,000 people, including 443 Democrats and 247 Republicans. It has a credibility interval of about 4 percentage points.