Light Wave


Can Kamala Harris turn around her sinking approval ratings?

By Jake Beardslee · November 6, 2023

In brief…

  • Harris taking on more public role before 2024 election to reintroduce herself
  • She has faced low poll numbers, staff departures, and other challenges
  • Harris participating in media interviews and taking the lead on key policies
  • White House highlighting her work to boost her image before election
Vice President Kamala Harris has taken on a more prominent public role to address her lagging poll numbers and lingering doubts among some Democrats about her readiness to potentially replace Biden.  Lawrence Jackson/Wikimedia

Vice President Kamala Harris has been taking on a more public-facing role as she aims to reintroduce herself to doubtful Democrats and voters at large going into the 2024 election, according to recent reports.

Harris has been the focus of an extensive media campaign this fall and assumed new policy leadership duties, while working to move past ongoing concerns like poor polling, negative press coverage, and staff departures, according to The Messenger. This week she lost another top aide: her speechwriter, the third person to hold that position since becoming vice president.

The vice president recently sat for interviews with CBS, The New York Times, and The Atlantic. She has spearheaded issues including AI, attending a global summit on it in London this week. She is also the White House’s point person on other policies like gun control and abortion rights. Additionally, she went on a college tour to energize students to “fight for their rights” on matters like voting rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and book bans, as the White House described it. Further, she has done more public engagement, recently hosting a Naval Observatory event honoring the 50th anniversary of hip hop, and will join a virtual event on Friday called “Sisters United: Taking Back Our Rights” to motivate women before the election.

President Biden’s aides have also been showcasing her work on social media. “President Biden on @VP’s invaluable advice and counsel: ‘Kamala is my partner in all of it,’” White House chief of staff Jeff Zients posted on X, spotlighting Biden’s quote from a “60 Minutes” segment.

The White House’s efforts come as Harris continues to struggle connecting with the public, with approval ratings below 40% - even lower than Biden’s in some cases. Past attempts to improve Harris’ public image did not succeed. But the Biden team, responding to calls from her own supporters to aid her, has tried to emphasize the work she has done to put her and Biden in a stronger position before the general election. Democrats had worried that Harris - who had no public events scheduled for over half of May, for example - was not being used optimally.

“They need as many surrogates as possible and the number one surrogate needs to be the vice president,” one Democratic strategist said to The Messenger. “So rehabbing her image in a way where she can go out there and be stronger, I think is important.”

Challenges remain for Harris. Her frequent staff turnover persists as one of her biggest problems. She also continues to face the narrative among some Democrats that she is not prepared to step in for Biden if needed. Members of Congress have seemed to dodge endorsing her as the best running mate. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to clarify remarks after a CNN interview where she called Harris “politically astute” but did not directly back her.