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Photo: NBC's "Meet the Press"

President Biden, nine months into his presidency, is getting a clear verdict in public polls: America sees him similarly to the guy he beat — Donald Trump.

Why it matters: Independents are turning on Biden. Shocking numbers of people see the nation headed in the wrong direction. And people see incompetence and chaos.

By the numbers: An NBC News poll out this morning finds 54% of Americans disapprove of Biden's performance — on the brink of midterms, and as he's trying to close the deal on a historic expansion of government.

  • "Biden’s favorable/unfavorable rating in the poll (40 percent positive, 48 percent negative) is almost identical to Trump’s in the same survey (38 percent positive, 50 percent negative)," NBC reports.

71% in the NBC poll — including 70% of independents and even 48% of Democrats — believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

  • An especially worrisome stat for the White House: Just 18% strongly approve of Biden, while nearly half (46%) strongly disapproval.

The big picture: Gallup says Biden's 42% approval rating is the lowest for any president in October of their first year going back to Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 — except Trump, who was at 37%.

Zoom in: FiveThirtyEight's poll tracker has Biden at 51% disapprove.

Between the lines: Biden faces signs the U.S. is turning against big government — just as he's trying to make government much bigger:

  • Gallup reported this month that 52% of Americans said government is "trying to do too many things" — a flip from last year, when a majority said government should be doing more to solve problems.
  • National Journal's Josh Kraushaar points out this reflects historical American patterns: "Aside from a surge of pro-government sentiment during the pandemic, majorities of Americans going back decades have favored more restrained government."

The bottom line: Polls are consistently showing Americans in a downbeat mood about their reality — and their president. Like with Trump, it's only diehard party loyalists who seem into the man in charge.

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Go deeper

Hostage families' mission to meet the president

Expand chart
Reproduced from The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

Relatives of American hostages and political prisoners held overseas are increasingly impatient for a meeting with President Biden.

Driving the news: Last week's release of a U.S. journalist held in Myanmar has elevated some expectations. So, too, did four years of Donald Trump's unusually public enthusiasm for and prioritization of hostage negotiations — with some notable successes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

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