COVID polling: The last line of defense for Biden?

by Andy Blocker & Jennnifer Flitton, Invesco Canada

Recent polls show Americans are losing trust in Biden’s handling of the Delta variant, but a majority support many of his policies like vaccine mandates for federal employees. 

Even the Democratic party faithful acknowledge that the Biden honeymoon is over. And as they head into the 2022 midterms, that fact is making party leaders nervous.

What was a promising start with the U.S. leading the world in the COVID vaccine rollout was followed by a sputtering of vaccination rates, most notably in states and districts that former President Donald Trump carried in the 2020 election, followed by the Delta variant wave and the disastrous pullout of American troops from Afghanistan. Pundits are pointing at independent voters that helped to elect Biden as those largely responsible for the president’s tanking numbers.

In sum, Joe Biden needs a win. Badly.

As we enter yet another election season with the razor-thin three-seat Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, and Vice President Kamala Harris acting as a tie breaker in the Senate, Democrats have very little margin for error. Causing further headache for the president is the ongoing battle between moderate and progressive Democrats. Polling suggests that the current legislative debate related to the bipartisan infrastructure legislation and the so-called Build Back Better reconciliation package is not to blame for Biden’s dismal numbers, but passage of either or both could help boost the president’s standing and allow him to take a victory lap.

And a boost he needs. According to recent poll numbers, Americans are losing trust and confidence in Biden’s handling of the Delta variant. Fewer than half (45%) now trust Biden to provide accurate information about the coronavirus, down significantly from when he took office in January (58%). Compared to the January high point, Biden has lost trust relatively evenly across the board among Democrats (an 11-percentage-point decline to 81%) and Republicans (a 10-point decline to 11%). Perhaps more concerning for the Biden faithful is that the president has experienced his largest decline among Independents – down 17 points to 42%. The number who trust the federal government to relay accurate information has also declined to just under half (49%), compared to 54% two weeks ago.1

But despite that decline, a majority of Americans support many of the policies the president has put in place, like vaccine mandates for federal employees. Newly announced vaccine requirements for federal employees, and businesses with 100 employees or more, are backed by a majority of Americans. However, this majority support conceals deep divisions along partisan fault lines. Overall, 60% of Americans support the federal government implementing these two rules. There is a similar level of support among employed Americans for their own employer to require vaccines in the workplace (57%). For both of these new requirements, more than eight in ten Democrats support them, and so do about 60% of Independents. However, only an estimated 30% of Republicans back these requirements.2

Republican leaders’ poll numbers on handling of the pandemic are also in decline, and Americans still trust Democrats over Republicans on COVID. Americans believe, by a 16-point margin3, that they are better off with Biden in charge of the pandemic than they would have been with the alternative: Donald Trump.

According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, just 30% of U.S. adults think the coronavirus situation would be better if Trump were still president. Far more — 46% — say it would be worse. Notably, the share of 2020 Biden voters who say things would be worse with Trump in charge (88%) is nearly 20 points higher than the share of Trump voters who say things would be better (69%), suggesting that even some of the former president’s fans are not confident he would have handled Delta well. The best news for Biden and congressional Democrats is that they find themselves in 2021, not 2022. They have a year to put points on the board and reverse these daunting and historic odds as the pandemic, and the politics surrounding it, rages on.

1 Source: Ipsos, “Americans may be ready to move past Delta,” November 9, 2021

2 Source: Gallup, “Majority in U.S. Supports Biden COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates,” September 24, 2021

3 Source: Politico, “‘The president’s decline is alarming’: Biden trapped in coronavirus malaise,” October 11, 2021

This post was first published at the official blog of Invesco Canada.

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