As Biden nears 100 days, polls show deep partisan divides

By Giovanni Russonello

With President Joe Biden approaching his 100th day in office this week, a slim majority of Americans approve of the job he’s doing, but he has been unable to overcome the country’s entrenched partisan divide, according to separate polls released Sunday.

The surveys, from Fox News, NBC News and ABC News/The Washington Post, found that Biden is considerably more popular at the 100-day mark than his predecessor, Donald Trump, but his approval is well behind that of most other modern presidents at this point in their first terms.

The ABC/Post poll found 52% of Americans approving of his performance and 42% disapproving. Comparing those numbers with past ABC/Post and Gallup surveys, he is less popular at 100 days than any other president since World War II except for Trump and Gerald Ford (who at this point had just issued a highly unpopular pardon to Richard Nixon).

The NBC News poll put his approval at a similar level, 53% to 39%, and the Fox poll, which surveyed only registered voters, had it at 54% to 43%.

In all three of the new polls, the president’s rating among Democrats was nearly unanimous — at least 9 in 10 approved of his performance. Among independents, he was just below 50% approval in the Fox and ABC/Post polls; the NBC poll had his approval with these unaffiliated voters at 61%. His support among Republicans was stuck around 1 in 10.

Eighty-two percent of respondents to the NBC poll said they thought the country was more divided than it was united, roughly on par with recent years.

Biden continues to enjoy broad approval for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic; in all three polls, he received his highest marks for his work to confront this issue. And the ABC/Post poll reaffirmed what other recent surveys had found: that the $2 trillion stimulus package Biden signed last month is broadly popular, with 65% of Americans saying they supported it.

But with vaccines now widely available and concern about the virus ebbing, Biden will soon confront a political landscape no longer defined by the one issue that has been his strong suit. Just 41% of voters said in the Fox poll that they were very concerned about the spread of the virus — the first time since the outbreak began last winter that Fox had found less than half of the country’s voters taking that position. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they thought the worst of the pandemic was behind us, according to the NBC survey.

As he looks to advance an ambitious policy agenda, Biden appears vulnerable to Republican attacks on his handling of the migration surge at the southern border. Approval of his handling of the border situation was very low — stuck in the mid-30s, according to all three polls.

But both the Fox and ABC/Post surveys also found that there is more support than opposition for his next major policy priority: the multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package that he recently unveiled. Asked specifically about Biden’s proposals to pay for it by raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, public support in both polls was considerably higher, with around 3 in 5 respondents supporting those ideas.

The ABC/Post poll found that by a 2-1 margin, Americans said they would prefer to see the president seek common ground with Republicans, rather than muscling through major policy changes without them — that’s despite the popularity of the COVID-19 relief package, which was passed without Republican buy-in.

Notably, that survey also found a roughly even split between the share of Americans expressing a preference for smaller government with fewer services, and those wanting a larger one with more services. Forty-eight percent chose smaller government, and 45% said larger.

Not since before the Clinton administration had the preference for smaller government fallen below 50% of Americans, according to ABC/Post polling going back to the 1980s.

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