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President Joe Biden has assumed leadership of the United States at one of its most unstable moments in modern history. A new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll reveals how Americans feel about the 46th president’s performance so far, and how it compares to former President Donald Trump.
About half of Americans — 49 percent — said they approve of how Biden has served as president so far, less than two months into his presidency, according to the latest poll. But as was the case with his predecessor, whose last year in office was marred by the pandemic, much of that support comes from people who identify as members of his own party. Among Democrats, Biden’s approval rating was 87 percent. But only 11 percent of Republicans and43 percent of independents said they approved of the president.
Chart by Megan McGrew/PBS NewsHour
Another 42 percent of Americans disapprove of what Biden has done so far as president, including 81 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of independents.
Still, Biden currently has a higher job approval rating than former President Donald Trump ever reached during his four years in the White House, according to Marist polling data. And support for Biden seems to be growing. In this latest poll, 52 percent of Americans said they had a favorable impression of him. That’s up from 41 percent in October 2019 in the midst of Trump’s first impeachment. Since then, Biden has inched up in favorability.
The White House is overall better esteemed than Capitol Hill at present, with 41 percent of Americans saying they approve of the job Democrats are doing in Congress, and just 28 percent saying they approve of the job Republicans are doing. The approval rating for Democrats is up significantly from 34 percent in January 2019, after the last Congress had just been sworn in, but 51 percent of Americans still disapprove of what Democrats are doing, including 16 percent of Democratic voters and 86 percent of Republicans.
Republicans in Congress face steeper job disapproval, with 64 percent of Americans saying they do not like what they are seeing, an increase of 6 percentage points over January 2019, including 38 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats.
Independents also largely disapproved of lawmakers from both parties, with 56 percent disapproving of Democrats in Congress and 63 percent disapproving of Republicans.
Most Americans think Biden is handling the coronavirus pandemic far better than Trump. Sixty-two percent approve of how Biden has managed the U.S. response so far. Another 30 percent say they disapprove.
The public’s approval of Biden’s actions far exceeds that earned by Trump’s leadership during the pandemic. His highest approval rating was 18 points lower, at 44 percent in March 2020, the same month the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic and Trump labeled it a public health emergency. From there, his approval on handling the pandemic dropped as low as 37 percent, recovering slightly to 39 percent by the time he left office in January.
But Americans have less faith in Biden’s ability to heal the nation’s wounded economy compared to Trump. While 46 percent of U.S. adults approve of how Biden has managed the economy, another 41 percent do not approve. During Trump’s last days in office, half of Americans said they approved of the former president’s handling of the economy, a sentiment thatTrump leveraged throughout his presidency and in his 2020 campaign for a second term.
Keanu Adams, 25, of Vacaville, California, said he voted for Biden and hopes the president recognizes the country needs more than public health and economic fixes right now.
“It’s not just about the money or the vaccines,” he said. “It’s about making sure everyone has their place at the table so we don’t have this situation where some people are just struggling, struggling, struggling and everyone else is just fine.”
The nation needs to uproot systemic problems to address what is really wrong, Adams said.
But neither Biden nor Trump seem to understand the problems that regular Americans face, said Zach Castillo of Mishawaka, Indiana, an independent voter who cast his ballot for Trump in 2020.
“Their lives seem so lofty and removed from what is really going on and how people are really living and feeling in the middle of the country,” Castillo said.
PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist Poll conducted a survey March 3-8 that polled 1,227 U.S. adults (margin of error of 3.4 percentage points) and 1,082 registered voters (margin of error of 3.6 percentage points).
Laura Santhanam is the Health Reporter and Coordinating Producer for Polling for the PBS NewsHour, where she has also worked as the Data Producer. Follow @LauraSanthanam
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