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COVID-19 Aid Package Both Popular and Controversial

COVID-19 Aid Package Both Popular and Controversial

Story Highlights

  • 63% of Americans approve of the new $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package
  • In contrast to 2020, Democrats and Republicans have polar opposite views

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sixty-three percent of Americans, according to a Gallup poll conducted March 15-21, approve of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed into law two weeks ago. While receiving nearly unanimous support from Democrats (97%), the legislation enjoys majority support among independents (58%) but scant backing from Republicans (18%).

Americans' Support for Coronavirus Relief Packages, by Party
Approve Disapprove
% %
Mar 15-21, 2021
U.S. adults 63 37
Democrats 97 3
Independents 58 42
Republicans 18 82
Mar 28-29, 2020
U.S. adults 77 23
Democrats 79 21
Independents 70 30
Republicans 79 21
2021 wording for the American Rescue Plan Act: Do you approve or disapprove of the legislation Congress passed and President Biden signed into law on Thursday, March 11, that authorizes $1.9 trillion in spending to address the economic and other effects of the coronavirus situation in this country?

2020 wording for the CARES Act: Do you approve or disapprove of the legislation Congress passed and President Trump signed into law on Friday authorizing $2 trillion in spending to address the economic effects of the coronavirus situation in this country?
Gallup Panel

While a solid majority, the 63% of all Americans approving of the new act falls short of the 77% who backed similar legislation a year ago at the start of the pandemic, largely because of the cool reception from Republicans now.

The 2020 $2.2 trillion aid package, widely known as the CARES Act, passed nearly unanimously in Congress last March. It also received broad bipartisan support from the American people when the economic crisis was particularly palpable. About seven in 10 Americans were completely or mostly isolating in their homes at the time of the March 2020 survey as large-scale school and business closures were just taking effect. Strong endorsement of the aid package from President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate no doubt also went a long way toward creating national unity around the bill.

The picture is starkly different today, as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 passed with no Republican support in the U.S. House and Senate before Biden signed it on March 11. Although the unemployment rate remains elevated, other aspects of the crisis are abating. In particular, with the COVID-19 vaccination program accelerating, fewer than four in 10 Americans (38%) are now completely or mostly isolating at home, and about three-fourths (77%) perceive that the coronavirus situation is improving.

The strong partisan differences seen in the new Gallup survey contrast with other national polls conducted earlier this month, which found about four in 10 Republicans favoring the relief package. The fact that no Republicans voted for the bill in Congress and have since been outspoken against the legislation may have caused rank-and-file Republicans to turn against it.

Nevertheless, despite the huge gulf in how Republicans and Democrats view the new legislation, it is favored by majorities of all key demographic subgroups, including different gender, age, racial/ethnic, education and income groups. Support is particularly high among subgroups that skew more Democratic than the national average. These include women (69%), 18- to 29-year-olds (77%), non-White Americans (81%), college graduates (77%) and lower-income Americans (76%).

Americans' Support for Coronavirus Relief Packages, by Subgroup
% Approve
2020 CARES Act 2021 American Rescue Plan Act
% %
U.S. adults 77 63
Men 72 56
Women 81 69
18-29 71 77
30-49 70 70
50-64 81 53
65+ 84 53
Non-Hispanic White Americans 76 55
Non-White Americans 77 81
College graduate 78 77
Not college graduate 76 57
Annual household income
<$36,000 75 76
$36,000-$89,999 77 60
$90,000+ 76 62
Gallup Panel

Bottom Line

Like the 2020 CARES Act, the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act has a roughly $2 trillion price tag. Both packages put billions of dollars into healthcare services and supplies to combat the coronavirus and provide direct financial support to American households, unemployed adults, small businesses, and state, local and tribal governments.

But the first was passed at the beginning of the pandemic when the nation was pulling together to respond to the unprecedented threat to people's health and economic livelihood. It was also passed with Republican leadership taking credit, facilitating rank-and-file Republicans' support. Today's legislation comes as the country is in the recovery phase, allowing for more partisan disagreement over the best solutions, and with Democrats in charge of the legislative and executive branches, making it harder to earn GOP buy-in.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.

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