For his first 100 days, President Biden scores higher than Trump – but not Obama

April 29, 2021, 5:30 PM GMT+0

As President Joe Biden marks his one hundredth day in office, he stands in positive territory among Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov poll.

After 100 days since his inauguration, half of US adults (51%) approve of how Biden is handling his job as president, while two in five (39%) disapprove. That is higher than that of his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, after 100 days (42% approved, 49% disapproved), but lower than Barack Obama (59% approved, 37% disapproved) during this point in his presidency.

What all three recent presidents share is an enormous difference between the ratings of those in their own party and those in the opposing party. Nine in 10 Democrats (90%) currently approve of President Biden’s performance (including 62% who strongly approve) compared to the 18% of Republicans who approve of how Biden is handling his job. Four in five (79%) disapprove, with two-thirds strongly disapproving.

Four years ago, 86% of Republicans approved of President Trump at his hundredth day, compared to just 12% of Democrats. At that time, four in five (82%) Democrats disapproved of his job performance. That partisan gap did not begin with President Trump, however. President Obama held a 91% approval rating from Democrats, but only 22% of Republicans approved. Three-quarters of Republicans (74%) disapproved of Obama in his first 100 days.

Most Americans doubt that Biden can unite the country

President Biden’s first major legislative victory, his COVID relief bill, became law last month, passed by Congress with zero GOP votes, underscoring the partisan tone in both Washington, D.C, and the country. There is little expectation that the current president can change this: just one in four overall (25%) think Biden will be able to bring the country together as president, and only half of Democrats (50%) believe that he can accomplish this.

Just one in nine Republicans (11%) believe Biden will be able to bring the country together; three-quarters (77%) do not think he will manage it. Only 13% of Americabs believe that partisanship in Washington, D.C. has improved since Biden took office.

President Biden’s policy report card at 100 days

President Biden gets positive marks for his handling of the economy (49% approve, 38% disapprove), as well as for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic (54% approve, 34% disapprove).

Biden’s immediate predecessors also earned net favorable ratings on their handling of the economy: Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the economy by 44% to 39% in 2017 and Obama by 52% to 43% in 2009.

But President Biden struggles with one issue that both of his predecessors also did: immigration. For all three, at the 100-day mark, more disapproved than approved of how they were handling it.

Obama’s rating on immigration in his first 100 days (35% approved, 44% disapproved) was not substantially different from Biden’s is now (38% approve, 47% disapprove). President Trump earned 41% approval and 47% disapproval on immigration after his initial few months in office.

However, President Biden now must deal with the continuing surge of immigrants crossing the Southern border illegally. Asked about that situation, Americans give President Biden poor ratings: half the country disapproves of how the current president is handling it (49%), and less than a third (31%) approve.

President Biden is – narrowly – viewed positively when it comes to foreign policy in general (43% vs 39%) and on his handling of Russia (38% vs 29%).

But opinions on these questions are highly partisan: three in four Democrats (77%) approve of the President’s handling of foreign policy, compared to 17% of Republicans. About two-thirds of Democrats (68%) approve of his handling of Russia, while just 16% of Republicans approve.

There are two Biden proposals that Americans approve of – and by wide margins. When it was passed, the COVID relief package had two to one support among the public overall, as well as the support of a third of Republicans, while President Biden’s recent promise to get the country out of Afghanistan by September 11 wins approval from Americans overall by 56% to 21%. Even Republicans now narrowly approve of that action (44% approve, 38% disapprove).

Americans are feeling slightly optimistic about the next four years

There are a few hopeful signs for the President as he moves beyond the first 100 days.

Americans are slightly more likely to be optimistic (43%) than pessimistic (39%) about the next four years of a Biden presidency. Four years ago, the public was more pessimistic about the coming Trump years (44%) than optimistic (37%).

In addition, as the public looks at the last 100 days, half of Americans (50%), including nearly one in four Republicans (22%), say President Biden has accomplished a “great deal” or a “good amount.” That is eight points higher than the percentage that said this about Donald Trump four years ago (42%). Just 15% of Democrats then agreed.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov poll

Related: Americans want steady politics, but expect the next four years will be unpredictable

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between April 25 - 27, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.7% for the overall sample

Image: Getty