Poll: Biden, Kerry Beat Obama in Popularity

Public punishes Obama for Syria as well as IRS and Benghazi, Libya, controversies.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden share a laugh at Kerry's swearing-in ceremony at the State Department on Feb. 6, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Sipa USA/AP)
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Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden are both more popular with Americans that President Barack Obama, according to a new Gallup survey.

Kerry, the former senator from Massachusetts, has 60 percent of people who approve of his work versus 31 percent who don't. Biden's numbers are lower, with just 51 percent approving and 39 percent disapproving of his work.

But Obama's numbers are underwater, with 45 percent of Americans approving of his job and 51 percent disapproving. The president's numbers have slipped over the summer in the face of controversies involving the Internal Revenue Service; the attacks in Benghazi, Libya; and, of late, public opposition for his suggested military strikes in Syria.

[READ: Obama's Plunging Approval Threatens Fall Agenda]

"Kerry has been secretary of state since February, maintaining an active presence on the international stage almost from the start," said Gallup polling analyst Jeffrey M. Jones, in a memo accompanying the poll results. "In addition to his high profile in the Syria matter, he has been involved in trying to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and asking China for assistance with North Korea."

Gallup did not measure the approval rating of Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton, during her time in office.

Past leaders of the State Department have occasionally been more popular than their presidents, but generally only when they are well-known figures, such as Henry Kissinger, Jones said.

Biden's ability to outstrip Obama in popularity is more of a rarity, according to Gallup.

"Historically, presidents' job approval ratings have averaged six percentage points higher than those of their vice presidents," Jones said. "Thus, Vice President Biden's current six-point edge in approval rating over the president is the opposite of the historical norm."

[POLL: Americans Unhappy With Obama]

Presidents just get more attention overall, he said, which allows them to rise quickly when things are going well and take it harder than other members of their administration when things go poorly.

"The president is clearly in a position to shoulder more of the blame when things do not go well and to take more of the credit when they do," Jones said. "And given the extraordinary attention the media pay to presidents, Americans probably have more information about the president and how he is handling his job to help form a judgment than they do about the vice president and other cabinet members."

The poll surveyed 1,510 adults from Sept. 5-8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

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