NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll Results: the Biden Administration & COVID-19, March 2021

Americans Weigh In on COVID-19 Relief Package… Biden Approval Rating at 49%

A majority of Americans either think Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package is on target (37%) or could have gone farther (21%). 34% believe the legislation goes too far. A wide partisan divide exists, with little consensus among independents. 37% of independents say it goes too far. 34% report it is on target.

COVID-19 Relief Bill
From what you've read or heard, do you think President Biden ́s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package goes too far, does not go far enough, or is about right?
Source: Marist Poll National Adults. Interviews conducted Mar. 3rd – Mar. 8th, 2021, n=1227 MOE +/- 3.4%
  • 49% of Americans approve of Biden’s job performance. 42% disapprove, and 10% are unsure. In February, Biden’s approval rating stood at 51%. 38% disapproved. 24% currently strongly approve of Biden’s job performance. 30% strongly disapprove.

  • Independents divide about Biden’s job performance (43% to 43%). 14% are unsure.

  • 46% of U.S. residents approve of how Biden is handling the economy. 41% disapprove. In December of 2020, then President Donald Trump’s rating on the economy was 50% approve to 45% disapprove.

  • 62% approve of Biden’s handling of the pandemic, including 30% of Republicans. 30% of Americans disapprove. Trump’s approval rating on the issue was consistently upside down. Prior to leaving office, Trump’s approval rating on his handling of the pandemic was 39% approve to 57% disapprove.

  • 52% view Biden favorably, inched up from 49% in January. 41% have a negative opinion of him.

Americans value compromise. 68% think it is more important for President Biden to compromise with Congress to find solutions rather than stick to his positions on the issues. Rare bipartisan support exists on this question. At least a majority of Democrats (59%), Republicans (82%), and independents (72%) say compromise should be invoked to find solutions.

“With strong scores on his handling of the pandemic, Biden is riding the ticket that got him into the White House,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist Poll. “Yet, more than one in ten are unsure about how to rate him on the economy. The result: Biden needs to get out in front on the economy to improve his overall standing with Americans.”

Though still underwater, congressional Democrats receive their highest job approval rating since Marist began tracking this question in 2011. Bolstered by members of their own party, 41% of registered voters approve of how congressional Democrats are doing their job while 51% disapprove. Democrats’ previous high score was 38% in November of 2015. When last reported in January of 2019, 34% approved. 53% disapproved.

Congressional Republicans do not fare as well. 28% of voters approve of their job performance, and 64% disapprove, including 38% of the GOP. The disapproval rating of the congressional GOP has increased from 58% in January of 2019. At that time, 29% approved, and 13% were unsure.

Other Findings

Vaccine Distribution Americans’ Top COVID-related Priority

When thinking about coronavirus, 43% of Americans consider vaccine distribution to be their top priority. 21% note the reopening of schools followed by financial relief to small businesses (15%), direct payments to individuals (13%), and the extension of unemployment benefits (5%). Vaccine distribution is top of mind for Democrats (60%) and independents (39%). The reopening of schools (39%) matters most to Republicans.

The Vaccine Rollout & Access to the Vaccine and Testing

More than one in five Americans (21%) say the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine has been going better than expected. 18% say it has been going worse than they thought, and a majority (57%) say it is about what they expected.

35% of Americans say it has not been very difficult or not difficult at all to get the coronavirus vaccine for themselves or someone they know who is eligible. 29% report it has been very difficult or difficult. 35% say they have not tried to get an appointment. Those living in the Northeast (42%) are more likely to report difficulty in getting the vaccine than in other regions of the nation.

67% of Americans plan to receive the vaccine (45%), if it is made available to them, or have already received it (22%). In January, 58% reported they would get vaccinated, and 4% said they were already inoculated. 30% currently do not plan to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Half of U.S. residents (50%) express little or no difficulty in getting a coronavirus test. 12% have experienced, at least, some difficulty, and 38% have not tried to get a test.

The Impact of the Coronavirus

More than three in four Americans (77%) say they or someone they personally know has been sick with coronavirus. This proportion has been steadily increasing since December. Though a smaller proportion, more than one in three (36%) say they personally know someone who has died from the virus. Looking at the economic impact, 34% of Americans say they or someone in their household has lost a job or income due to coronavirus. This proportion is comparable to that which was reported in January.

Have you had any of the following experiences as a result of coronavirus:

% reporting “yes”

Source: Marist Poll National Adults. Interviews conducted Mar. 3rd – Mar. 8th, 2021, n=1227 MOE +/- 3.4%

State Governments and Coronavirus

A majority of Americans (51%) think their state should prioritize controlling the spread of coronavirus over restarting the economy. 43% believe their state should jump start the economy, even if it hurts efforts to control the spread of the virus. Majorities in the Northeast (55%) and West (54%) and a plurality in the South (49%) think controlling the spread should be the top priority. Those in the Midwest divide (47% to 45%). A distinct partisan divide is present while independents divide.