In April, over the course of three days, President Joe Biden visited Northern Ireland to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and the Republic of Ireland for what was both a diplomatic and a family visit to his ancestral homeland.
In Britain, some of the press coverage and political conversations around Biden’s visit focused on where his preferences and loyalties lie. Lee Cohen in The Spectator argued that Biden’s alleged hatred of Britain is “both personal and politically convenient.” Northern Irish politicians from the DUP, such as Arlene Foster and Sammy Wilson MP, accused the President of being anti-British and anti-Protestant, in part due to his frequent references to his heritage as a Catholic Irish-American.
The White House, in turn, refuted these claims, citing the President’s strong support of close bilateral relations with the UK, including through multilateral bodies like NATO and the G7.
Last week, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited the United States to meet with President Biden, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies asked British voters what they think of US President Biden.
Overall, a third of Britons have a positive view of Mr. Biden’s Presidency. 33% think that he has been a good President for the United States, while 19% believe he has been a bad President. It is important to note, however, that as many as 36% say that they believe he has been neither good nor bad and that another 12% are undecided. His headline +14% approval is therefore more mixed than initially appears.
Age appears to be an important factor in one’s views of President Biden. Younger voters (25-34 years old) are much more likely to say that the President has done a good job (47%) than not (15%). By comparison, roughly equal percentages of voters aged 65 and older have a good or bad opinion of the President’s performance in the United States (20% and 21% respectively), while 43% have a neutral opinion.
Similarly, among all voters, 37% believe that President Biden has been a good UK ally, up from 28% in November, while 17% believe that he has been a bad ally. 2019 Conservative voters are slightly more opinionated than 2019 Labour voters on this question, with just 39% expressing a neutral or undecided view compared to 57% of 2019 Labour voters.
Nevertheless, at a time when the United Kingdom’s hopes of securing a free trade agreement with the United States appear to have been dashed, nearly half of voters (46%) believe that Joe Biden is more pro-EU than pro-UK, compared to just 22% of voters who find Biden to be more pro-UK.
While there is a more than 30-point margin of Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters who believe that Biden is more pro-EU (likely for contrasting reasons), the pro-EU margin for Labour voters stands at only 12 percentage points, while 40% of 2019 Labour voters say they don’t know.
Altogether, these figures show that, on average, British voters tend to more often have a positive attitude towards President Joe Biden than a negative one, albeit with the caveat that many voters, 2019 Labour voters in particular, are neutral or uncertain with regards to the US President. At the same time, voters do see in the President a preference towards the European Union over the United Kingdom, which may prove to be a hurdle in achieving a free trade agreement that provides Britain with a trading advantage over its European neighbours.