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Biden Gets High Marks for COVID-19 Response

Biden Gets High Marks for COVID-19 Response

Story Highlights

  • 67% approve of his COVID-19 response, 31% disapprove
  • Biden's overall job approval rating is 56%; 40% disapprove
  • 54% approve of his handling of the economy and 56% of foreign affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Several weeks into his first term in office, 67% of Americans approve of President Joe Biden's handling of the coronavirus. Although not as high as his rating on the pandemic, approval of Biden is at the majority level on his overall job (56%) and his handling of foreign affairs (56%) and the economy (54%).

President Joe Biden's Approval Ratings Among U.S. Adults
Approve Disapprove
% %
Overall job 56 40
The response to the coronavirus 67 31
Foreign affairs 56 40
Economy 54 44
Gallup, Feb. 3-18, 2021

Biden's latest overall job approval rating is essentially unchanged from his first in office, suggesting that his modest honeymoon continues. The Biden administration's efforts on the pandemic have largely been focused on vaccines, increasing both the supply and administration of them in the U.S. In addition to his work on vaccines, Biden has been working to address the economic effects of the coronavirus with a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. In addition, he has begun to roll back Donald Trump's "America First" foreign policy and reach out to U.S. allies in the wake of Trump's strikingly low approval ratings from people around the world.

These latest findings are from a Gallup Feb. 3-18 poll, which was conducted as COVID-19 infections in the U.S. were declining after a post-holiday surge. Gallup's COVID-19 tracking survey recently found 66% of Americans dissatisfied with the vaccine rollout in the U.S., and they increasingly expect COVID-19-related disruptions to persist well into 2021. However, the public is also much more positive about the current COVID-19 situation in the U.S. Clearly, Americans are not yet holding Biden responsible for the perceived shortcomings.

Biden's approval rating on the pandemic contrasts with former President Donald Trump's significantly lower ratings for his handling of the coronavirus during much of last year. Trump's initial approval ratings for the pandemic response were quite positive, including 60% approving in March, as he took steps early on to address the disease. These included imposing travel bans, directing government resources toward vaccine development and signing COVID-19-relief bills.

Yet, by April, Trump's rating on his response to the pandemic had fallen to 50% as he was publicly questioning the advice of his administration's medical experts, including the use of masks in public, and largely leaving it to the states to develop strategies and find resources to battle the disease. By early June, his approval on the coronavirus was down to 42%, and it fell to 36% by mid-August. His final COVID-19 approval rating, in the latter half of October, was 40%, and a campaign post-mortem conducted by Trump campaign officials cited his response to COVID-19 as one of the main reasons he did not win reelection.

One-Third of Republicans Approve of Biden's Pandemic Response

Biden's current approval rating for his handling of the coronavirus includes 95% of Democrats, 66% of independents and 34% of Republicans. His pandemic response approval exceeds that of his overall performance because of much higher ratings from Republicans and, to a lesser extent, independents. Republicans' approval for Biden's pandemic response is 22 percentage points higher than their approval of his overall job performance. Among independents, the gap is 13 points, while Democrats offer nearly unanimous approval of both dimensions.

Partisans' approval ratings of Biden's handling of the economy and foreign affairs are similar to their overall job rating.

President Joe Biden's Approval Ratings, by Party Identification
% Approve
Republican Independent Democrat
% % %
Overall job 12 53 96
The response to the coronavirus 34 66 95
Foreign affairs 15 54 92
Economy 12 54 90
Gallup, Feb. 3-18, 2021

Comparisons of Approval Ratings of Biden and His Predecessors

Approval of Biden's overall job performance and his handling of the economy are lower than Barack Obama's scores, roughly on par with those of George W. Bush, and better than Trump's and Bill Clinton's at about the same points in their presidencies.

Biden's rating for handling foreign affairs is higher than those of Trump and Bush, and similar to those of Obama and Clinton.

Partisans' ratings of presidents reached a new level of polarization by the time Trump became president, and that persists today. Before Trump's presidency, at least one-quarter of Americans in the opposing party expressed approval of Obama's, Bush's and Clinton's overall job, as well as their handling of the economy and foreign affairs, early in their terms.

The gap between Republicans' and Democrats' overall job approval ratings of Biden is on par with the one for Trump, 84 points vs. 85 points, respectively. Meanwhile, the gaps between partisans' ratings of the economy and foreign affairs are similar for Biden and Trump.

Americans' Approval of Presidents' Overall Job, Handling of Economy and Foreign Affairs
% Approve
U.S. adults Republican Independent Democrat
% % % %
Overall job
Biden 56 12 53 96
Trump 42 90 34 5
Obama 63 32 62 91
G.W. Bush 57 88 53 32
Clinton 51 24 49 74
Biden 54 12 54 90
Trump 48 90 44 13
Obama 59 28 59 88
G.W. Bush 53 80 53 30
Clinton 45 26 42 63
Foreign affairs
Biden 56 15 54 92
Trump 38 82 30 6
Obama 54 26 54 79
G.W. Bush 46 73 42 26
Clinton 53 39 51 67
Feb. 3-18, 2021 (Biden); Feb. 1-5, 2017 (Trump); Feb. 9-12, 2009 (Obama); Feb. 1-4, 2001 (Bush); Feb. 12-14, 1993 (Clinton)

Bottom Line

Biden continues to enjoy a honeymoon as president. His handling of the coronavirus pandemic may be a major reason for that, as one-third of Republicans and two-thirds of independents say they approve of his efforts. This level of approval from the opposition party is remarkable in today's politically polarized climate.

Due to the dire nature of the pandemic, the Biden administration had to hit the ground running upon taking office on Jan. 20, and they immediately worked to increase the supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Biden also quickly began work to get support for an economic relief package, and he rolled back a number of Trump's policies through a series of executive orders.

With the coronavirus pandemic the major challenge currently facing the U.S., Biden, like Trump, will increasingly be judged by whether there is marked improvement in the nation's coronavirus situation.

Explore President Biden's approval ratings and compare them with those of past presidents in the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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