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Biden Transition Approval Remains High at 68%

Biden Transition Approval Remains High at 68%

Story Highlights

  • 68% in U.S. approve of Biden's handling of his presidential transition
  • 39% rate his Cabinet appointments as "outstanding" or "above average"
  • Biden's favorable rating is 57%; Harris' is 53%

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Joe Biden prepares to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, 68% of Americans approve of his handling of his presidential transition and about four in 10 rate his Cabinet appointments as "outstanding" or "above average." Majorities view Biden (57%) and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (53%) favorably.

Biden's Transition Rated Better Than Trump's, Worse Than Obama's

The latest rating of Biden's transition, from a Jan. 4-15 Gallup poll, is in line with his 65% rating in December. Biden's transition has been unique in that it has spanned President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the election results while a global pandemic continued to surge across the U.S. The poll's field period encompassed the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill by Trump supporters and the resulting second impeachment of the current president in the House of Representatives on Jan. 13.

Americans' rating of Biden's transition is similar to those of Bill Clinton in 1993 and George W. Bush in 2001, but significantly higher than for Trump four years ago and significantly lower than for Barack Obama in 2009.

Approval Ratings of Presidential Transitions, 1993-2021
Do you approve or disapprove of the way ... is handling his presidential transition?
Approve Disapprove
% %
Joe Biden (2021) 68 31
Donald Trump (2017) 44 51
Barack Obama (2009) 83 12
George W. Bush (2001) 61 25
Bill Clinton (1993) 68 18
Based on January readings prior to inauguration

Partisans' views of Biden's transition are sharply divided, with 96% of Democrats, 71% of independents and 27% of Republicans expressing approval. The 69-percentage-point approval gap between Republicans and Democrats is similar to the gaps in 2017 and 2001. However, in 2009, the gap was much smaller as 72% of Republicans approved of Obama's transition.

Partisans' Approval of Presidential Transitions, 1993-2021
% Approve of presidential transition
Republicans Independents Democrats Gap (Rep-Dem)
% % % pct. pts.
Joe Biden (2021) 27 71 96 -69
Donald Trump (2017) 87 33 13 +74
Barack Obama (2009) 72 81 96 -24
George W. Bush (2001) 92 58 34 +58
Bill Clinton (1993) 50 67 87 -37
Based on January readings prior to inauguration

With the exception of 2017 when 33% of independents approved of Trump's transition, majorities of independents have approved of presidential transitions since 1993.

Republicans' approval of Biden's transition (27%) is much higher than Democrats' approval of Trump's transition in 2017 (13%). Bush's rating among Democrats in 2001 (34%) was slightly better than Biden's rating among Republicans today. Obama's transition got very strong approval from all parties.

Majority Rate Biden's Cabinet Picks Average or Better

One of the key aspects of a presidential transition is the appointment of Cabinet members. The public's views on Biden's choices for his Cabinet are more lukewarm than their approval of his transition in general. Fourteen percent of Americans think Biden's choices for Cabinet-level positions are "outstanding," while 25% rate them as "above average," 27% "average," 10% "below average" and 17% "poor."

Ratings for Biden's Cabinet picks are lower than those for Obama, but they are in line with Bush's and higher than Trump's and Clinton's.

Americans' Views of Cabinet Picks of Presidents-Elect, 1993-2021
How would you rate the appointments President-elect ... has made so far to Cabinet-level positions? Would you say his choices have been -- outstanding, above average, average, below average or poor?
Outstanding Above average Average Below average Poor
% % % % %
Joe Biden (2021) 14 25 27 10 17
Donald Trump (2017) 11 21 20 12 32
Barack Obama (2009) 13 32 38 5 5
George W. Bush (2001) 12 26 43 6 7
Bill Clinton (1993) 7 25 51 7 5
Based on January readings prior to inauguration

Majorities View Biden and Harris Favorably

Biden's current 57% favorable rating remains near his highest on record, which was 61% in January 2017 at the end of his second term as vice president under Obama.

Line graph. Favorable ratings of Joe Biden since 2008. The latest rating, 57%, is near his highest on record in Jan. 2017 as he and Barack Obama left office.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is viewed favorably by 53% of Americans.

The favorable ratings of Biden and Harris are similar among Democrats (at more than 90% for both) and Republicans (around 10% for both). Independents have a slightly more favorable opinion of Biden (54%) than Harris (48%).

Looking back at the pre-inauguration favorable ratings of presidents-elect and vice presidents-elect, the favorable ratings of Biden and Harris are significantly higher than those of Trump and Pence in 2017. Biden's favorability as incoming president is 21 points below Obama's in 2009, while Harris' current rating is identical to Biden's in 2009 just before he was sworn in as vice president.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney enjoyed slightly higher favorable ratings in 2001 than Biden and Harris have now. The same is true of Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1993.

Favorable Ratings of Incoming Presidents and Vice Presidents, 1993-2021
Favorable rating
Joe Biden 57
Kamala Harris 53
Donald Trump 40
Mike Pence 42
Barack Obama 78
Joe Biden 53
George W. Bush 62
Dick Cheney 61
Bill Clinton 66
Al Gore 63
January readings prior to inauguration

Bottom Line

Americans are generally sanguine about the incoming Biden administration, as they largely approve of the president-elect's transition and both he and the vice president-elect are viewed favorably by majorities. The public's rating of Biden's Cabinet appointments, while less enthusiastic than Obama's, is still more positive than Trump's and Clinton's.

Biden campaigned on a message of national unity -- and since winning, has reiterated that he will try to unite the country. Independents' broad approval of his presidential transition is a first step in doing so, and approval among Republicans for Biden's transition is higher than that among Democrats for Trump's transition in 2017. Trump's low transition approval ratings, including very low ratings from Democrats, signaled that his job approval ratings would be similarly low and polarized and that he would not enjoy the traditional presidential honeymoon period. The current ratings for Biden may signal that he will have a more typical start to his administration in terms of public support.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

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