Since her election to the vice presidency in 2020, Kamala Harris has received both support and criticism. Alongside Joe Biden, their administration has faced widespread disapproval, which is growing as we approach the 2024 election.
A recent FiveThirtyEight poll showed that the vice president’s popularity among Americans is at an all-time low.
In May 2021, four months after her inauguration, Harris’ approval rating was 48.1%. It dropped to 40.1% in January 2022, increased slightly to 41.7% in January 2023, and ultimately sat at 37.4% as of January 2024.
Her disapproval rating has steadily increased since 2020, from 37.4% in May 2021 to 51.2% in January 2022, 51.7% in January 2023, and 55.5% in January 2024.
The Hill described Harris as “the most unpopular VP in recent history” but recognised the unique challenge of her position. As the first woman, first woman of colour and first South Asian American to serve in this role, the election of Vice President Harris remains hugely significant.
In her new role, the former senator suffered similar treatment to Hillary Clinton, during her run for president in 2016, but with the added component of her race. Harris has experienced both sexist and racist attacks that pre-date her appointment as Biden’s VP.
Whilst running for president herself in 2020, Harris was the target of Donald Trump’s repeated and false claims about her eligibility. Harris was born in California to Donald and Shyamala Gopalan Harris, Indian and Jamaican immigrants to the United States.
Trump claimed Harris was ineligible to run for president, spouting the same “race-based and anti-immigrant” rhetoric he did with Barack Obama a decade earlier. Trump fuelled lies and spread distrust around the former president’s citizenship, claiming he was not an American citizen; Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
Kamala Harris has undoubtedly suffered a disproportionate and unfair amount of abuse and criticism since taking on the position of vice president and it would be naïve not to acknowledge the role her gender and race has played in this.
However, Vice President Harris has not lived up to expectation and now suffers the worst approval rating of her entire term.
Harris may not be entirely to blame… President Biden has been criticised for saddling the vice president with “a bound to fail portfolio at the outset” including the ongoing issue of immigration reform in the United States, a dispute that has persisted for decades.
The vice president has been described as “her own worst enemy” with critics citing her inability to keep staff, her public awkwardness, and scripted speeches.
In a July 2023 article, Lauren Elizabeth heavily condemned the VP’s record, calling her “the darling of the donor class” and “the supposed golden child of the Democratic Party”.
Elizabeth criticised the decision to select Harris as Biden’s running mate in 2020, despite the former Californian senator having dropped out of the presidential race before any votes were cast. She speculates that this was a deliberate move to set Harris up for future elections.
Describing the vice president’s appointment as “a miserable failure”, Elizabeth argues Harris has repeatedly flopped in public and failed to address crowds. She recognises that it is not just “an occasional gaffe” or nervousness, but a persistent inability by the VP to “form a coherent sentence or come across as even remotely authentic”.
Looking ahead to the 2024 Election, Elizabeth predicted Harris would develop into “a liability on the campaign circuit” which she has arguably become.
An LA Times poll found that Kamala Harris is now more unpopular than at any other point during her tenure as vice president. Her popularity is as low or lower than all vice presidents over the past 30 years.
In a Statista poll, 1,658 Americans were interviewed online, over a three-day period in late January 2024 to determine whether they had a favourable or unfavourable opinion of certain people, including the current VP.
When asked for their opinion of Kamala Harris, the majority responded, ‘very unfavourable’ (42%) followed by ‘somewhat favourable’ (22%), ‘very favourable’ (18%), and ‘somewhat unfavourable’ (11%). The remainder responded, ‘don’t know’ (8%).
On the whole, polls point to a particularly negative impression of the VP, and it would be inaccurate to suggest there was not a sexist, misogynistic or racist component to this. As a result of inherent bias and outdated stereotypes, Harris has inevitably suffered from heightened scrutiny which has not always related to her performance as vice president.
Equally the matter can’t be avoided; Harris is very unpopular. She may have helped Joe Biden win in 2020 and has marked her place in history as the first female VP, but beyond that, her contribution is debatable.
Edited by: Kaiyah Ellison
Photo credit: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla
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