Future president? Kamala Harris now 'underwater' as sinking popularity alarms Democrats

·4 min read
Kamala Harris speaks as President Joe Biden looks on
Kamala Harris speaks as President Joe Biden looks on

Kamala Harris has become the most unpopular US vice president six months into an administration since at least the 1970s, according to polls.

Alarmed Democrat strategists are grappling with the Vice President's floundering poll numbers which show she is now "underwater," meaning more Americans disapprove, than approve, of her job performance.

The White House intends to deploy her only in certain areas to campaign ahead of next year's midterm Congressional elections, and will attempt to raise her profile by sending her on foreign trips in the coming months.

The disappointing first months of her term have also worried long-term strategists, many of whom had hoped she would run for president as early as the next elections.

Two recent polls both showed 46 per cent of Americans approved of Ms Harris, with 47 per cent and 48 per cent disapproving.

By contrast Joe Biden's approval rating in an average of polls is 51.3 per cent, and disapproval is 44.9 per cent. One of the most concerning elements for the White House is Ms Harris's unpopularity among young people.

An Economist/YouGov poll found 41 per cent of voters aged 18-29 had an "unfavourable" view of Ms Harris, with only 36 per cent viewing her "favourably." Ms Harris is also struggling with Hispanic voters, possibly due to her role leading US border policy.

Harris will be heading abroad to lift her profile
Harris will be heading abroad to lift her profile

Ahead of the midterm elections it is expected she will not be sent to campaign in the key border state of Arizona. On Friday night, as part of its plan to boost Ms Harris's standing, the White House announced she would become the first US vice president to visit Vietnam next month, in a move aimed at raising pressure on China.

Professor Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said: "Biden has given her some very tough assignments - immigration and voting rights - but she hasn't helped herself, she's made some mistakes, like not going to the border."

He said before Ms Harris was selected as Mr Biden's running mate "outside of California nobody knew who the hell she was. If you know nothing about somebody it's hard to have high favourables."

The only way for Ms Harris to turn things around was to "take one of those two big issues Biden has given her and make it a big success.

"She has to find, her staff, Biden have to find something she can play a key role in that will transform her image and then build on that."

Harris greets members of the Detroit Youth Choir at a vaccine mobilisation event
Harris greets members of the Detroit Youth Choir at a vaccine mobilisation event

He said the assumption that Ms Harris would become the Democrat nominee after Mr Biden - either in 2024 or 2028 - was a "mistake".

Prof Sabato said: "She's not going to inherit the Democratic nomination. She might win it. But she can expect a lot of challengers." In the polls the intensity of opposition has also been noted by White House officials.

Of the 48 per cent in the Economist/YouGov poll who viewed the vice president "unfavourably," the vast majority [40 per cent] said they did so "very unfavourably." Ms Harris has alienated some Hispanic voters by telling people from Central America "Do not come" to the US, while also infuriating conservatives and some independents by taking many weeks to physically visit the border.

A faltering performance in a high-profile TV interview with NBC in June left White House aides scrambling, and there have been numerous reports of dysfunction in her office.

The only recent vice president to have similarly poor ratings after six months was Mike Pence, but he was not "underwater".

According to Gallup 42.1 per cent approved of Mr Pence's performance at that point, and 41.9 percent disapproved.

The previous vice president - Mr Biden - had an approval rating above 50 per cent after six months. Before that Dick Cheney, and Al Gore, were in the 60s at the same stage.

Even Dan Quayle, the much-mocked vice president of George H.W. Bush, was nowhere not underwater after six months.

He had an approval rating of 43 per cent, and disapproval of just 22 per cent, with 34 per cent undecided.

Mr Bush himself was a popular vice president under Ronald Reagan, as was his predecessor Walter Mondale, who became Jimmy Carter's vice president in 1976.

Watch: 'The Five' reacts to Democrats' fear that Kamala Harris hurting the party