POLL: More than half of Americans approve of President Biden’s performance but country remains divided

US Politics

FILE – In this Wednesday, April 14, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden removes his mask to speak at a news conference at the White House, in Washington. Ten liberal senators are urging Biden to back India and South Africa’s appeal to the World Trade Organization to temporarily relax intellectual property rules so coronavirus vaccines can be manufactured by nations that are struggling to inoculate their population. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool, File)

(NBC) — As President Joe Biden nears his 100th day in office, slightly more than half of Americans say they approve of his job performance, with Biden getting his highest marks on handling the coronavirus and his lowest on the situation at the border.

Those are the results of a new national NBC News poll, which also finds a public that’s largely supportive of Biden’s top legislative priorities; that’s become more optimistic about defeating the pandemic; and that’s more bullish about the country’s direction than it was back in January.

“What we don’t know is if this is part of a 100-day honeymoon or something more durable and lasting for the Biden-Harris administration,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

“What we do know is that Joe Biden’s presidency is meeting the times,” Horwitt added.

But the poll also shows that nearly one-in-five Americans are resistant or hesitant in getting a Covid-19 vaccine; that a majority believe the nation is on the wrong track; and that a whopping 80 percent still think the country is mostly divided, despite Biden’s promise to be a more unifying president.

Joe Biden
FILE – In this Jan. 27, 2021 file photo, President Joe Biden signs an executive order on climate change, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. Biden is convening a coalition of the willing, the unwilling, the desperate-for-help and the avid-for-money for a two-day summit aimed at rallying the world’s worst polluters to do more to slow climate change. Biden’s first task when his virtual summit opens Thursday is to convince the world that the United States is both willing and able isn’t just willing to meet an ambitious new emissions-cutting pledge, but also able. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“In a first-hundred-days poll, we change presidents, but we don’t change the country,” said McInturff, arguing that the poll doesn’t suggest profound changes in attitude about the nation’s direction and its politics.

According to the poll, 53 percent of adults say they approve of Biden’s job as president – including 90 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents but just 9 percent of Republicans – while 39 percent of all respondents say they disapprove.

Biden’s job rating is higher than Donald Trump’s was at this same point in time in the poll (40 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove), but it’s lower than Barack Obama’s was at 100 days (61 percent approve, 30 percent disapprove).

Among registered voters in the new poll, Biden’s job rating stands at 51 percent approve, 43 percent disapprove. 

The president gets his highest marks on handling the coronavirus (69 percent approve), on dealing with the economy (52 percent approve), on uniting the country (52 percent approve) and on race relations (49 percent approve).

Joe Biden
FILE – In this March 11, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden holds up his face mask as he speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during a prime-time address from the East Room of the White House in Washington. The U.S. is meeting President Joe Biden’s latest vaccine goal of administering 200 million COVID-19 shots in his first 100 days in office, as the White House steps up its efforts to inoculate the rest of the public. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

“I think I just like how he’s handling the Covid crisis more than Trump did,” said one Democratic poll respondent from Iowa.

But Biden’s lowest scores come on dealing with China (35 percent), handling the gun issue (34 percent) and dealing with border security and immigration (33 percent).

“He opened flood gates for illegal immigration,” said one female Trump voter from Texas.

And by a 55 percent-to-34 percent margin, respondents believe that Biden has returned the country to a more typical way that past presidents have governed the country.

“I don’t have to think about what Joe Biden is doing every day,” said a North Carolina man who voted for Biden. “The best thing about Joe Biden is I don’t have to think about Joe Biden.”

Biden’s Covid relief and infrastructure plans remain popular

The NBC News poll also finds that Biden’s top legislative priorities are fairly popular with the American public.

Forty-six percent of Americans say the Covid relief bill he signed into law in March is a good idea, versus 25 percent who call it a bad idea, with another 26 percent who don’t have an opinion.

And 59 percent say his infrastructure plan – which would upgrade roads and bridges, expand broadband access and pay to care for the elderly and disabled– is a good idea, while 21 percent disagree; 19 percent don’t have an opinion.

By party, 87 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 21 percent of Republicans support Biden’s infrastructure plan.

“America may be a divided country, but the data here reveal that Americans are not evenly divided on

the path that the Biden-Harris administration is taking,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.

What’s more, 56 percent of respondents say they feel more hopeful when looking at Biden’s leadership and plans for the country, compared with 42 percent who say they feel more doubtful.

Fifty-one percent believe Biden has so far accomplished a great deal or a fair amount in office, versus 47 percent who say he’s accomplished very little or just some – a result that virtually matches the popular vote in the 2020 presidential election.

And when it comes to perceptions of Biden’s ideology, 42 percent of Americans identify the president as moderate; 29 percent say he’s “very liberal”; 15 percent believe he’s “somewhat liberal”; and a combined 8 percent say he’s conservative.

President Joe Biden speaks to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Growing confidence in the fight against the coronavirus

A majority of Americans – 61 percent – say the worst is behind the United States when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, while just 19 percent believe the worst is yet to come.

That’s a significant reversal from the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in October, when 55 percent of voters said the worst was yet to come, and when only 25 percent said the worst was behind the U.S.

The poll also shows that 57 percent of Americans say they’ve already received a Covid-19 vaccine; another 8 percent say they will take the vaccine as soon as they can; and 15 percent say they will wait to see if there are major side effects before take taking it.

That’s compared with 12 percent who say they will never take the vaccine, as well as another 7 percent who will take it only if it’s required.

There’s a striking divide by party here: Among Democrats, 74 percent say they’ve already been vaccinated, while just 4 percent say they won’t ever take it.

But among Republicans, 40 percent say they’ve been vaccinated, while 24 percent say they’ll never take it.

82 percent say America is divided rather than united

Thirty-six percent of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction – up from 21 percent who said this in January.

Yet 56 percent believe the nation is on the wrong track, which continues a streak (going back to George W. Bush’s second term as president) of at least a majority of Americans holding this view in the poll.

And despite Biden’s positive marks on uniting the country, 82 percent of respondents in the poll say the country is divided, while only 16 percent say it’s united.

Other findings in the poll

  • Asked to pick the one or two most important issues facing the country, Americans’ top responses were the coronavirus (30 percent), uniting the country (25 percent), race relations (23 percent), the economy (23 percent) and border security and immigration (22 percent).
  • The top responses among Democrats were the coronavirus (43 percent) race relations (35 percent), guns (25 percent) and unity (24 percent).
  • Among Republicans, the top responses were the border/immigration (47 percent), the economy (28 percent), taxes and spending (23 percent) and unity (17 percent).
  • Democrats hold a 5-point advantage in congressional preference, with 47 percent of registered voters preferring a Democratic-controlled Congress, and with 42 percent preferring Republicans in charge.
  • And former President Donald Trump’s favorable/unfavorable rating in the poll is 32 percent positive, 55 percent negative (-23), while Biden’s score is 50 percent positive, 36 percent negative (+14).

The NBC News poll was conducted April 17-20 of 1,000 adults – 60 percent of whom only have a cell phone – and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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