Plurality Approval For Biden’s Job Performance Amid Strong Party Division Over Policy Record

August 11, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Joe Biden | US Government | US Politics | US Public Figures
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Following President Joe Biden’s first six months in office, the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies surveyed the American public for their views on his overall job performance, as well as his policy record so far.

We find that a plurality of 48% approve of President Joe Biden’s overall job performance since he became President in January 2021, down four points from a majority of 52% in May 2021. A further 36% disapprove of his overall performance, 13% neither approve nor disapprove, and 3% don’t know.

2020 electoral vote remains the strongest indicator of opinion, with 84% approval amongst those who voted for Joe Biden, compared to 71% disapproval amongst those who voted for Donald Trump. There is majority approval for Biden’s performance amongst those aged 25 to 34 (52%) and 35 to 44 (53%), while those most likely to disapprove of his performance so far are those aged 55 to 64 (44%) and 65 and over (45%).

Turning to Biden’s performance in policy, a majority of Americans (51%) approve of his performance with regards to the coronavirus pandemic. On the other end, 28% disapprove and 17% neither approve nor disapprove. However, 2020 vote again remains decisive, with 88% of those who voted for Biden approving of his performance—including 44% who strongly approve. Conversely, 57% of those who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 disapprove of the Biden administration’s performance regarding coronavirus, including 37% of whom strongly disapprove.

This partisan trend continues throughout all other policy areas: a majority of those who voted for Trump in 2020 disapprove of all policy areas polled, compared to majority approval amongst those who voted for Biden

In domestic policy, a clear plurality (42%) approve of the Biden administration’s economic performance so far. This figure is compared with 34% who disapprove, and 19% who neither approve nor disapprove. Again, approval is split strongly by past vote, with majorities of 2020 Biden voters approving (74%) and 2020 Trump voters (69%) disapproving. 

Similarly, 37% approve of Biden’s performance on the environment, while 28% disapprove, and 27% neither approve nor disapprove. Interestingly, age does not appear to correlate with approval, with both younger and older respondents divided. 18-to-24-year-olds are most likely to neither approve nor disapprove (36%), compared to 30% of this age group that approve and 28% that disapprove. Those aged 65 and over are similarly split: 36% approve of Biden’s record on the environment compared to 33% who disapprove, and 26% who neither approve nor disapprove.

The American public are split regarding the Biden administration’s record on crime and policing, with equal proportions of 35% who approve and 35% who disapprove, while 23% neither approve nor disapprove. Of those who voted for Biden in 2020, 59% support his crime record, against 10% who disapprove. In comparison, 67% of those who voted for Trump disapprove, against 15% who approve.

Moving beyond solely domestic affairs, the tide turns. Our research finds that a plurality of Americans a significant plurality (41%) of American disapprove of Biden’s immigration policy, compared to 32% who approve and 22% who neither approve nor disapprove. This strong disapproval is driven by high levels of disapproval (75%) amongst 2020 Trump voters, not quite matched by approval of 56% amongst those who voted for Biden in 2020.

The margins of approval become slimmer when we look at relations with Russia. A plurality of 34% approve of the Biden administration’s relations with Russia, but 31% disapprove, while a quarter (26%) neither approve nor disapprove. Disapproval increases with age, with 40% of those aged 65 and over disapproving compared to 24% of those aged 18 to 24. Conversely, a slim plurality (34%) disapprove of Biden’s record on relations with China, against 31% who approve and 26% who neither approve nor disapprove.

Biden’s record on defence is also seen positively: 37% approve, 30% disapprove, and 24% neither approve nor disapprove. Here, 2020 Trump and Biden voters are equally matched, with 62% disapproval to 63% approval, respectively.

Interestingly, when we look at specific actions taken by President Biden over the last six months, we see majority or plurality support for all actions, driven by a lack of majoritarian opposition amongst those who voted for Donald Trump in 2020. Biden’s decision to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour sees 53% support amongst the American public. 22% oppose this decision, and 19% neither support nor oppose it. Strong approval (79%) from 2020 Biden voters against plurality disapproval (45%) amongst 2020 Trump voters tips the balance in Biden’s favour.

Biden’s specific foreign policy measures elicit the most support from those who voted for Donald Trump in 2020. Concerning sanctions against the Cuban Government, a plurality (46%) of Americans support this decision—including a plurality (37%) of those who voted for Trump in November. Just 14% of respondents oppose this decision, 30% neither approve nor disapprove, and 11% don’t know.

Respondents were overall supportive of Biden’s decision to end the US combat mission in Iraq. 49% support this decision, 18% oppose it and 24% neither support nor oppose it. Interestingly, 2020 Trump voters are split on this decision, with equal thirds in support (33%) and in opposition (33%), followed by 27% who neither support nor oppose the decision. This split in opinion contrasts significantly with the majority (70%) of 2020 Biden voters who support Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq. Just 8% of those who voted for Biden oppose this decision, whilst only 18% neither support nor oppose.

Similarly, Biden’s decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan gains 49% approval from the American public, while 25% neither support nor oppose it, and 19% oppose it. 2020 Biden voters are just as supportive of this withdrawal as they are of withdrawing from Iraq: 68% of those who voted for Biden say they support this decision, whilst only 7% oppose. 22% neither support or oppose this decision. By contrast, amongst 2020 Trump voters, a slim plurality of 34% oppose the decision against 31% who approve, and 26% who neither support nor oppose. 

The Biden administration’ recent actions to control large corporations—including promoting a 15% corporation tax and new measures to combat anti-competitive practices in Big Tech—receive plurality approval from the American public. A plurality of 44% approve of the proposed 15% corporation tax, against 25% who oppose it and 22% who neither approve nor disapprove. Similarly, 44% approve of the measures to combat anti-competitive practices, while 16% oppose it, and 29% neither approve nor disapprove. 

Overall, President Biden’s overall job performance so far enjoys general approval, as does much of his policy record. However, 2020 electoral vote drives disagreement, with those who voted for Biden approving of his performance in all policy areas so far, while those who voted for Trump disapprove of all policy areas. When we turn to specific actions, this partisan divide—while still present—is slightly reduced, with a lack of majoritarian opposition from 2020 Trump voters. This may suggest that disapproval from Trump voters in principle of Biden’s general policy is diminished when focus is shifted to specific policy actions in practice.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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