During the first few months that President Biden was in office, Americans generally viewed the coronavirus as such the most pressing problem in the country. But if communities reopen, vaccination rates rise, and new COVID-19 cases fall, will Biden get “recognition” for his handling of the pandemic?
Yes, on the one hand. Americans rate Biden’s response to the pandemic quite positively, especially when compared to former President Donald Trump. According to the FiveThirtyEight average, 63 percent are in favor of Biden’s handling of the coronavirus, while only 39 percent are in favor of Trump as he leaves the White House.
But on the other hand, no. Despite the importance of COVID-19 to voters, Biden’s overall job approval rating has never approached its approval rating for dealing with the pandemic, suggesting that some segments of the public approve of his work on the coronavirus but not his overall work performance .
The interplay between Americans ‘views of a president’s performance on certain issues and Americans’ views of that president’s overall performance is chaotic, inconsistent, and complicated by partisanship. Voters may largely approve of Biden’s handling of COVID-19, but the coronavirus isn’t the only issue that matters to them. More importantly, partiality overrides most things when it comes to the overall position of a president – whether it is someone from the opposing party approving a particular issue, but not overall. or Someone from the President’s Party supports him in general, but not on any particular problem.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s approval tracker, Biden’s topline rating is around 55 percent, which is around 8 percentage points below his agreement with dealing with the coronavirus. And that gap has largely widened since February.
So what’s going on here? Biden’s handling of the pandemic surveys was far better than not just his overall rating but any other frequently asked question. Take one CNN / SSRS poll in late Aprilwho found their work permit in 53 percent of adults. Sixty-six percent agreed Biden’s deal with the coronavirus, but his deal with the economy was 51 percent, roughly around his general approval. And Biden’s approval of dealing with immigration was 41 percent, well below his overall level. This pattern – coronavirus approval higher, the economy close to its overall, and immigration way below it – showed up in most of the polls we looked at.
Around a third of Republicans approve of Biden’s handling of the pandemic in FiveThirtyEights Tracker, but less than 20 percent of Republicans – and sometimes only around 10 percent – approve of his overall performance. So the credit Biden is getting from some Republicans for the pandemic doesn’t really show up in how they rate his performance as a whole. This is partly because they disapprove of his approaches to addressing other important issues – just for example 4 percent of Republicans approved in Biden’s CNN / SSRS poll on immigration. But also Republicans tend to care more about immigration as the Democrats, the partisan identity is a key filter here too.
People are just less likely to say they approve of an opposing party president than they are to say they approve of a president on their own initiative. That is partiality. It can push people away from Biden despite their consent to his work on the pandemic – or it can keep them updated even if they don’t like how he deals with an issue like immigration. Partiality also affects how people see these issues in the first place. Ask yourself whether the economy is improving or deteriorating as has been tracked daily since June 2016 by Civiqs. The proportion of Democrats who believed the economy would deteriorate rose after Trump took office, while the proportion of Republicans who believed the same rose immediately after Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
The tendency for partiality to override topic considerations may also increase. Historically, economic output was one of the strongest predictors the approval of the president, but that has decreased as the likelihood of voters increasing filter their views the economy through its party-political identity.
You could see the separation between economic ratings and general approval even during Trump’s tenure. During his presidency he did tended to vote better on economics than on most other subjects, and significantly better than on his job permit overall. To compare with Biden, we used the economic approval polls in the first six months of Trump and Barack Obama’s presidencies. Trump’s approval of the economy was balanced over this period, but on economic issues, his net approval rating (the percentage of people who agreed minus the percentage who disagreed) far exceeded his overall position, as the following table shows. By comparison, Biden and Obama tended to vote worse – Obama much worse – on their dealings with the economy compared to their top-line job approval numbers.
Trump received better marks for the economy than overall
Overall net approval ratings and for dealing with the economy during the first six months of the President’s tenure
Net approval rating six months after presidency
Average A total of
Average Dealing with the economy
Again, we can see the partiality outweighing the credit a president might otherwise get for a specific problem, even big problems like a pandemic or the economy (which are worth repeating) historically competed only by issuing war and peace contribute to the popularity of a president). Trump actually received a minimum amount of credit from Democrats for the economy: in late April 2017, a CNN / ORC poll found Trump’s approval of the economy is 49 percent, 16 percent of Democrats agree. That’s not a lot of Democrats, of course, but it was twice as many who approve of Trump in the overall poll, 8 percent.
As we see with Biden, a president can get support from the other party on certain issues, including very important ones like the coronavirus, but that is unlikely to result in too much support overall – approval and elections. That doesn’t mean a president gets No Credit for treating an important problem well. After all, Biden still votes slightly better among Republicans than Trump among Democrats, and he’s getting more support from independents.
In other words, Biden is getting credit for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, and if those high marks continue, it could help Democrats in the 2022 period. Regardless of the partiality, it still helps to treat a major problem well in the eyes of most voters. It helps in terms of overall popularity and choice. However, the effect is severely dampened – by partisanship and other problems.