Biden and his Covid-relief bill prove popular in new CNN poll

The popularity of the bill comes as President Joe Biden’s approval rating tilts positive around 50 days after he took the oath of office.

In the new poll, 61% support the $1.9 trillion economic relief bill proposed by Biden and expected to pass in the House Wednesday, and several key provisions of the bill are even more popular. A broad majority of Americans (85%) say they support policies in the bill that would provide larger tax credits for families and make them easier for low-income households to claim, including majorities across party lines (95% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans support it). Around three-quarters favor provisions to provide funding to facilitate a return to the classroom for K-12 students (77%), and sending stimulus checks worth up to $1,400 per person to most families and individuals (76%). Both of those policies also have majority support across party lines (55% of Republicans support each, among Democrats, support tops 90% for each one).

    A smaller majority, 59%, say they back providing $350 billion in aid to state and local governments. That policy sparks the sharpest partisan divide among the four tested, with 88% of Democrats in favor vs. just 28% of Republicans.

      One measure not in the bill — raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour — also has majority support. Overall, 55% favor such an increase in the minimum wage, including 85% of Democrats, 52% of independents and 20% of Republicans.

      Roughly two-thirds of Americans say that if the bill becomes law, it will help the economy at least some (66%), and 55% say it would help people like them. Those with lower annual incomes are more likely to say the bill will do a lot to help them than are those with higher incomes (46% of those earning less than $25,000 per year say it will help people like them a lot, compared with just 6% among those earning $100,000 or more per year), as are women (28% of women say it will help them a lot vs. 19% of men), and people of color (37% among people of color vs. 16% among Whites).

      The broad popularity of the bill comes as just over half of Americans say they approve of the way Biden is handling the presidency (51%), while 41% disapprove. Biden’s ratings are higher for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic: 60% approve and 34% disapprove. And most, 54%, say the new President’s policies will move the country in the right direction.

      Still, even with high hopes for economic improvement from the relief bill, there are indications in this poll that Biden has yet to win over the public on his handling of the economy generally. His approval rating for handling it stands at 49% approve to 44% disapprove, and just 30% say they have a lot of confidence in Biden to deal with the economy.

      Even as the bill is poised to become a major legislative accomplishment for the Biden administration, the President receives somewhat mixed reviews for his handling of some issues, including environmental policy (50% approve, 41% disapprove), helping the middle class (50% approve, 43% disapprove), racial injustice (47% approve, 43% disapprove), foreign affairs (44% approve and 46% disapprove) and immigration (43% approve and 49% disapprove).

      Biden’s overall approval rating about two months into his presidency is higher than that of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who held a 45% approval rating in a CNN Poll in March 2017. But Biden’s 51% lags behind other modern presidents, including the three most recent prior to Trump (Barack Obama, 64% in March 2009, George W. Bush, 58% in March 2001 and Bill Clinton, 53% in March 1993).

      Both Biden and Trump appear to lag behind because of far sharper partisan polarization than their predecessors faced at this stage of their presidencies.

      Nearly all Democrats approve of how Biden is handling the job thus far (92%) while almost all Republicans disapprove (88%). That’s about the same as partisan views of Trump in March 2017 (88% of Republicans approved and 89% of Democrats disapproved). In March 2009, disapproval of Obama among Republicans was more than 20 points lower than Biden’s (65% disapproved), Bush’s disapproval among Democrats stood at just 49% in March 2001, and Clinton’s disapproval rating among Republicans in March of 1993 was 59%.

      Americans also seem to have more confidence in Biden than they did in Trump on measures of political leadership. Overall, 38% say they have a lot of confidence in Biden’s ability to provide real leadership for the country (31% said so about Trump in April of 2017) and 34% have a lot of confidence in Biden to appoint the best people to office (Trump stood at 27% on that in April 2017). About a third (32%) say they have a lot of confidence in Biden to work effectively with Congress.

      The share of Americans who say things in the country today are going well has rebounded after dropping sharply in January. Overall, 39% say things are going well now, up from 22% in January and about the same as in October 2020 just before the presidential election. There has been a sharp partisan reversal on this question, however, as often happens when the presidency changes hands. Just 9% of Democrats said things were going well in January, that has risen to 59% in the new poll. On the Republican side, the percentage who say things are going well has dropped from 37% in January to 19% now.

        The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS March 3 through 8 among a random national sample of 1,009 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

        The methodology and weighting for the poll incorporates some changes to CNN’s polling practices made starting with the January 2021 survey. Interviews conducted on cell phones made up 75% of the total, up from 65% in recent CNN surveys. Dialing extended over six days rather than four days, allowing for more effort to be made to contact those who are not easily reachable. Demographic weighting was adjusted to account for more discrete education categories broken out by race, and a geographic weight was applied to ensure representative distribution by population density.

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