Joe Biden is enjoying an early presidential honeymoon, with 60% of Americans approving of his job performance thus far and even more backing his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
At a moment of deep political polarization in America, support for Biden’s pandemic response extends across party lines. Overall, 70% of Americans back the Democratic president’s handling of the virus response, including 44% of Republicans.
Still, Biden faces more skepticism from Americans on the economy, which has been battered by the pandemic. Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of Biden’s approach to the economy thus far, and 63% say the U.S. economy is in poor shape, the AP-NORC survey shows. Republicans are also less likely to back Biden on the economy than they are on the pandemic, with just 17% supporting his fiscal stewardship.
Less than two months into his presidency, Biden has made the pandemic his central focus, urging Americans to follow stringent social distancing and mask guidelines and vowing to speed up distribution of critical vaccines. He’s also argued that until the spread of the virus is under control, the economy won’t fully recover.
To address financial shortfalls in the meantime, he’s asking Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue plan that would provide direct payments to millions of Americans and surge funds into state and local governments.
The measure has already passed the House. But Biden is having to make compromises to keep all Democratic senators in support of the measure, including agreeing this week to narrow eligibility for $1,400 stimulus checks. In a concession to moderate Democratic senators, Biden agreed that individuals making more than $80,000 annually and couples making more than $160,000 won’t receive any benefits. Biden’s original proposal extended the stimulus funds to Americans with higher annual wages.
The administration estimates that 158.5 million households will still receive checks under the Senate compromise.
The prospect of a pandemic relief bill is welcome news to John Villegas, 58, an Illinois Democrat who supports Biden’s handling of both the virus response and the economy.
“With the closure of so many businesses, there are a lot of people suffering,” said Villegas, who called Biden’s approach a “180 degree shift” from his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Trump argued that the U.S. economy couldn’t afford the hit that came from enacting restrictions on business and travel. The worst fears of economists were averted as Republican-led states followed Trump’s lead and resisted restrictions, but COVID-19 cases skyrocketed. More than 520,000 people have died in the United States from the virus over the past year.
Despite their differing approaches to managing the economy during the pandemic, Biden’s approval ratings on the economy are similar to Trump’s, whose handling of the economy since the virus took hold was consistently backed by about half of Americans. The key difference: That level of support made the economy Trump’s strongest issue, while it’s a relative weakness for Biden compared with Americans’ views of his handling of the pandemic and other issues.
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Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press