Biden’s positive approval rating holds in a country divided

March 05, 2021, 7:25 PM UTC

Two months into his Presidency, Joe Biden continues to have good ratings from half the public, but he has not yet managed to overcome the partisan divides. In each week of the Economist/YouGov poll since January 29, his approval rating remains at around 50%.

The party gap in this week’s poll is as large as ever: nearly nine in ten Democrats (89%) approve of how he is doing his job, while just 14% of Republicans say the same.

Independents are split - 43% approve, 40% disapprove - and have been since the Inauguration.

One conclusion is clear: Joe Biden isn’t former President Donald Trump, and the ratings of the two men demonstrate the difference. As many as 86% of Americans with a favorable opinion of Biden have an unfavorable opinion of Trump (with nine in ten of those who are very favorable toward Biden very unfavorable about his predecessor). Three in four people (76%) who have an unfavorable view of Biden have a favorable one of Donald Trump.  

These splits in opinion were evident during the election campaign and still permeate every assessment of the two presidents. Republicans continue to reject President Biden’s election, and his position as president. Nearly three in four Republicans (72%) and a third of Americans overall (36%) believe President Biden did not win the 2020 election legitimately.  

Just 7% of those who regard Biden as an illegitimate president have a favorable opinion of him; just 6% approve of the way he is handling his job. A few more (10%) approve of how he is handling the coronavirus pandemic.  

Biden focused his campaign on the coronavirus, attacking how President Trump dealt with it, and spending many of his first days and weeks encouraging mask wearing and vaccinations. Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill currently being deliberated by Congress receives 63% support from those who have heard of it. This includes three in ten Republicans (31%) and a quarter of those who doubt Biden’s legitimacy (27%). 

President Biden has other strengths, too. Around half of Americans (46%) say they like the president “as a person,” compared to only a quarter say they dislike him. He is seen as honest and trustworthy by 45%, while 38% believe he is not. He is also regarded as a strong leader by 54% to 46%.  

For now, at least, he gets positive marks on the other issue besides the pandemic that worries Americans – jobs and the economy. More approve (48%) than disapprove (38%) of his performance there. 

President Trump often received positive scores on that question too, and it almost always was the area where he scored the best. Trump ended his presidency with 50% approving of his performance on jobs and the economy, making Biden’s numbers comparable to Trump. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this 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 February 27 - March 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 2.6% for the overall sample  

Image: Getty