Politics

Biden nets positive marks for handling pandemic, but vaccine resistance, Delta concern remains – CBS News poll

Six months into President Biden’s administration, Americans are less apprehensive about the year than they were at the start of it. 

They think the battle against the pandemic is going somewhat well, though that’s tempered now by concern about the Delta variant. Most say their finances are okay, and most parents think the tax credit will help. On the personal front, Biden gets positive marks, particularly for his handling of the pandemic and how he handles himself. 

But issues clearly loom. People are feeling the effects of inflation. And as vaccination rates stall, despite the administration’s push, the remaining unvaccinated look more and more immovable in their decision — and even more politicized.

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Those ranks of the unvaccinated look ever more dominated by those suspicious of the science, skeptical of the effectiveness, and distrusting of the government that’s urging them to get it. Half of the remaining vaccine hesitant are now those who say they “don’t trust the government,” up from where that sentiment was among the comparable group in June, and almost half don’t trust the science or feel it is still too untested. 

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The differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans have long cut along educational and partisan lines — with the unvaccinated disproportionately non-college and also those who call themselves very conservative. We now see some partisan pushback against the wider effort, too, as most Republicans think the Biden administration is doing too much in urging Americans to get it.

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Some wonder what a personal doctor-patient connection might do to boost confidence if the vaccine becomes available directly. But only 10% of the hesitant and unvaccinated say their own doctor’s advice would make a difference.

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There’s also been concern that for some workers, especially for lower income or hourly wage workers, the process of getting vaccinated or the time it takes might prove less convenient than for those with more flexibility in their schedules. That appears to be the case: those who haven’t gotten it, and have lower incomes, do report a perceived inconvenience. 

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That comes as Americans show majorities concerned about the Delta variant in particular. The fully vaccinated are more concerned than the unvaccinated. Since the start of the outbreak last year, there have always been some Americans more concerned about the virus and the public health impact, generally, than others — and the former group was also more likely to get vaccinated when the shot became available.

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Overall, though, compared to how it was in January, Americans do see a better fight against the pandemic.

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And Biden continues to get strong marks for it.

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Economy

Most Americans view the state of their own personal financial situation as at least somewhat good, an assessment that cuts across party lines (though middle- and higher-income earners tend to be more positive than those in households earning less than $50,000 a year).

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Positive assessments of how the national economy overall is doing has grown overall during the past six months, from 34% in January to 45% today, driven primarily by an increase among Democrats.

Views of the national economy are more partisan than personal finances, as they’ve been for most recent Presidents: most Democrats say the economy is doing well, while most Republicans say it’s doing badly (despite two-thirds of Republicans saying their own situation is good). In January, right before President Biden was set to inherit both the White House and the economy from then-President Trump, partisan assessments of the economy were reversed.

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Some of the Biden administration’s spending proposals are popular with a majority of Americans: most think the second stimulus bill passed this past spring helped the U.S. economy, and most parents think the new Child Tax Credit payments will help them financially.

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Looking ahead, there’s support for even more spending in the form of some of the larger proposals being advocated by President Biden and Democrats in Congress. Most approve overall of the administration’s infrastructure proposal, and there is even greater approval specifically for spending additional federal money to build or repair U.S. roads and bridges, putting broadband internet in rural areas, and paying for child care and care for the elderly.

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But with spending comes the specter of inflation, and most Americans report feeling its effects in the price of basic goods and services. Large majorities of Americans say they are paying more these days for gasoline, groceries and food, as well as electricity and power. Those across all income levels say they have noticed increasing prices for these items. 

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How Biden is evaluated on issues

Six months into his presidency, President Biden receives mostly positive marks on his approval of various issues, and six in ten like how he handles himself personally. His backers see things as steady, if not very exciting. A 55% majority of Democrats describe U.S. politics over the last six months as “steady” with fewer using words like “inspiring” (39%) or “exciting” (21%). Most Republicans describe the past six months as “worrying” (67%) or “frustrating” (61%).

Six months ago a larger percentage of Americans described their outlook for the next year as scared, and that has dropped now. The number who are hopeful is about the same.

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Mr. Biden’s overall approval rating remains at 58%, roughly stable in recent months but not as high as it was at the very start of his term. Roughly equal numbers — three in ten — strongly approve as strongly disapprove of his job performance. 

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On specific issues, he receives his highest marks on handling climate change, followed by race relations and the economy — each of which sees a slim majority approving. Among the various issues tested, he receives his lowest marks on handling immigration. And he’s just slightly negative on handling crime.

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On foreign policy, six in 10 approve of Mr. Biden’s handling of the removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. In April, 77% approved of the U.S. withdrawing without Mr. Biden’s name attached, but his handling of it finds lower approval, particularly among Republicans and conservatives. His handling of issues with Russia, the situation in Cuba, and issues with China are each met with approval by about half of the country.

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This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,238 U.S. adult residents interviewed between July 14-17, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on  the U.S. Census American Community Survey, and the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, as well as 2020 Presidential vote. The margin of error is ± 2.4 points.

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