Americans tend to disapprove of how President Biden is handling abortion issues

February 04, 2021, 5:55 PM UTC

In two weeks, President Joe Biden has signed nearly 30 executive orders, and changed many policies adopted by his predecessor Donald Trump. Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov poll accept many of Biden’s executive orders, but his decisions to change rules about US foreign aid to organizations that provide family planning assistance, including abortions, are met with disapproval.

Last week, President Biden rescinded the Mexico City policy, which required foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to certify that they will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” before receiving US funds. The policy was first adopted in 1984 during the Ronald Reagan Administration, and it has been abandoned and reactivated over the course of several administrations.  

Revoking the policy isn’t particularly popular: 36% approve of rescinding the Mexico City rule, but 42% do not. Nearly four in five Republicans (78%) disapprove of the decision, compared to 44% of Independents and 13% of Democrats.

This is the case despite the fact that over half the public supports abortion being legal in most cases (55%). However, the margin supporting abortion rights in this poll is not overwhelming and is lower than it was in Economist/YouGov polls conducted four years ago. In July 2016, 62% believed abortion should be legal in most or all cases. 

The gender difference in this poll on abortion rights support is partly related to partisanship. However, Democratic women (82%) and Independent women (62%) are more likely to support abortion rights than men with the same partisan views (71% and 47% respectively). Opposition to abortion is high for both male (75%) and female Republicans (71%). 

On the issue of abortion overall, more Americans disapprove (38%) than approve (33%) of the new president’s handling of the issue. Democrats overwhelmingly approve (66%) while Republicans do not (72%). Independents are 15-points more likely to disapprove (42%) as approve (27%).

Americans back Biden’s reopening of ACA enrollment exchanges 

Biden gets a warmer reception when it comes to his approach to health care in general, with 46% approving and 36% disapproving. 

One of the president’s other executive orders has been to reopen the Affordable Care Act enrollment exchanges, stating his belief that President Trump made health care more “inaccessible, more expensive, and more difficult to qualify for.” Americans are more likely to approve than disapprove of that executive order (49% vs 33%), and they also approve of the ACA (49% vs 39%), also known as Obamacare. Republicans disagree, as they have on this issue since the bill was adopted in 2010 with almost no Republican support. 

Related: Republicans sour on Congress and doubt the Supreme Court, too 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll  

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between January 31 - February 2, 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 2.9% for the overall sample.  

Image: Getty