BY: KENDALL KARSON, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — Two-thirds of Americans approve of President Joe Biden’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds, putting the new commander-in-chief on steady footing after more than two weeks in office.
In line with attitudes measured just after his inauguration, twice as many Americans approve of Biden’s leadership on the virus than disapprove, a feat that his predecessor never accomplished in the year of ABC News/Ipsos polls on the coronavirus while he was still in office.
Former President Donald Trump’s approval on handling the coronavirus was higher than his disapproval only once, when it spiked to 55% in mid-March last year. But for nearly the entirety of the pandemic, support for his response eroded, falling and remaining underwater for months. In ABC News/Ipsos polls from July through October last year, more than 6 in 10 disapproved of Trump’s handling of the virus.
Among Democrats and independents, Biden’s approval is overwhelming — with 96% and 67%, respectively, viewing his response favorably. Despite these polarized times, Republican approval for Biden’s coronavirus performance is still at 33% in the poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel.
Biden’s early days in office have been marked by a determined effort to pass a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that would provide aid to American families, workers, businesses and local governments. Congressional Democrats used a procedural move, known as reconciliation, to pass a budget blueprint this week on a party-line vote — paving the way for Biden’s plan.
Democrats pushed ahead with approving the hefty package without GOP support after Biden met in the Oval Office with 10 Republican lawmakers, who were pitching a far slimmer counterproposal of $618 billion. Both sides want to get a final bill to Biden’s desk before federal jobless benefits expire on March 14.
The new poll finds widespread support for delivering additional aid, with nearly 9 in 10 Americans backing a coronavirus relief package, but the country is split over the approach.
While a plurality (49%) believe Biden and Democrats should unilaterally pass the massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 measure with only support from within the party, another 40% are on board with a smaller aid package that earns support from at least some Republicans. Only 10% don’t believe any action is necessary.
The division is even starker on party lines, with only 24% of Republicans backing the White House’s strategy and a majority (53%) preferring a bipartisan approach that sacrifices the size of the package. But it’s not just Republicans, a slim majority of independents (51%) also favor a smaller plan with the support of some Republicans in Congress.
More than 3 in 4 Democrats, meanwhile, are lining up behind the White House, supporting the bolder approach that forgoes bipartisanship.
White House officials have cited public polling showing sweeping support for their plan, as Biden faces some criticism for taking a one-sided approach in his inaugural legislative effort despite his campaign promises to unify a fractured nation.
“The president ran on unifying the country and putting forward ideas that would help address the crises we’re facing. He didn’t run on a promise to unite the Democratic and Republican Party into one party in Washington. This package has the vast majority of support from the American public,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing on Friday.
Before assuming the presidency last month, Biden heavily criticized the former administration’s vaccine rollout, calling it a “dismal failure thus far,” and introducing his own plan as a course correct.
Part of the COVID-19 package includes funding for vaccines, which two-thirds of the country believe are being distributed fairly to the public. One-third said that the process is unfair.
Positive assessments of the equity of vaccine distribution are bipartisan with majorities of Democrats (61%), Republicans (68%) and independents (70%) believing the distribution is fair.
There is a bigger divide across age groups, with over 70% of Americans under 50 years old saying the vaccine distribution process is fair, while roughly 6 in 10 Americans 50 and older say the same.
This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs’ KnowledgePanel® Feb. 5 to 6, 2021, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 508 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4.8 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31%-26%-36%, Democrats-Republicans-independents. See the poll’s topline results and details on the methodology here.
ABC News’ Dan Merkle and Ken Goldstein contributed to this report.
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