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Biden’s Betting On Public Support To Push His Agenda. Polls Show His Big Spending Packages Have It.

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.


In his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, President Biden spent a lot of time extolling the virtues of the three massive spending packages that have quickly become centerpieces of his agenda: the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, a $2 trillion infrastructure bill and a $1.8 trillion plan for child care, universal prekindergarten and more.

The first part of Biden’s agenda, his coronavirus stimulus package, has consistently garnered high approval numbers — both when it was first being considered and when it was enacted last month. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll (conducted April 18-21) has found that it’s still popular: 65 percent of Americans support it, and just 31 percent oppose it.

Biden stands at a podium outdoors mid-speech. He is pointing with his right hand as a gesture.

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But what about the other two plans, which have yet to make it through Congress?

The American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion bill to improve infrastructure, is also popular, but recent polls disagree on how much. According to Fox News, which was in the field April 18-21, the plan is fairly divisive: Although a plurality (49 percent) of respondents support it, almost as many (41 percent) oppose it. However, it received higher support in other polls, such as CBS News/YouGov on April 21-24 (58 percent support, 42 percent opposition) and ABC News/Washington Post (52 percent support, 35 percent opposition). Monmouth University’s April 8-12 survey, which detailed that the proposal would spend money on “roads, bridges and trains, internet access, power grid improvements, and clean energy projects,” gave the proposal its gaudiest numbers. A full 68 percent of adults said they supported the plan, while only 29 percent opposed it.


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CBS News/YouGov also asked about specific infrastructure improvements, and notably, each was more popular than the full bill (which the poll identified merely as “the Biden Administration’s infrastructure proposal”). By a whopping 87 percent to 13 percent, Americans supported a hypothetical bill to spend money building or repairing roads and bridges; they also gave the thumbs-up to a bill to repair or replace old water pipes, 85 percent to 15 percent. Even the least popular specific proposals rated as more popular than the overall bill. For instance, Americans support spending money to build more train and rail lines “only” 63 percent to 37 percent, and they support setting up electric car charging stations “just” 61 percent to 39 percent.

Wednesday was the first time we learned details about the American Families Plan, which would put $1.8 trillion toward universal prekindergarten, federal paid leave, child-care subsidies, free community college and more. However, we have known it was coming for some time, so Monmouth was able to poll the popularity of “a large spending plan to expand access to healthcare and childcare, and provide paid leave and college tuition support.” That proposal also garnered widespread enthusiasm, with 64 percent support and 34 percent opposition. But as with the physical infrastructure plan, some elements of the plan are more popular than others. For instance, according to an older (March 26-29) Morning Consult/Politico poll, 60 percent of Americans support free community college while 33 percent oppose it. And they like the idea of extending the child tax credit expansion, 62 percent to 24 percent. But they support reducing tuition at historically Black colleges and universities just 48 percent to 40 percent.

An illustration with a plain blue background, and a cut-out Biden with a podium, and a Capitol Building dome.

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In total, these three bills add up to a $6 trillion investment by the federal government, and Biden has already announced his intentions to pay for them by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent and raising taxes on wealthy individuals. These moves are also popular with the public, though again, the polls disagree about just how popular. For example, CBS News/YouGov found that Americans support raising taxes on both individuals making more than $400,000 a year and corporations by the same wide margin: 71 percent to 29 percent. Per Monmouth, though, support was a bit lower: Americans favor higher corporate taxes 64 percent to 34 percent, and they support raising taxes on $400,000-aires 65 percent to 33 percent.

ABC News/Washington Post asked about the corporate tax increase in an interesting way, giving respondents a bit of history: “The top tax rate on corporate profits used to be 35 percent, then was cut to 21 percent,” it asked. “Would you support or oppose raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent?” This question yielded relatively modest, but still high, support: 58 percent, compared with 36 percent opposition. 

Fox News found the lowest support for a corporate tax increase, but a strong majority was still in favor: 56 percent of its respondents favored the idea, while 39 percent opposed it. Notably, Fox News was also the only pollster that found a significant difference in how Americans feel about raising taxes on corporations vs. wealthy individuals. A tax hike for people making more than $400,000 earned higher approbation, 63 percent to 33 percent.

Any way you slice it, all of Biden’s economic proposals — and his mechanisms for paying for them — are popular. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to get through Congress; the Senate, in particular, has been resistant to pass even proposals with high public support, from marijuana legalization to a $15 minimum wage. But as Biden tries to push through the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan in the coming months, he will at least be able to claim public opinion is on his side.

Other polling bites

  • Large majorities of Americans are satisfied with last week’s guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd last May. Seventy-five percent of Americans told CBS News/YouGov that it was the right verdict, and 25 percent said it was the wrong one. A CNN/SSRS poll likewise found that 77 percent of Americans were satisfied with the verdict, while just 16 percent were dissatisfied with it. In both polls, Black Americans were almost unanimously in favor of the verdict, but even majorities of white people and Republicans were too (albeit more narrowly).
  • On April 13, public-health officials paused the use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine due to the occurrence of rare blood clots; 10 days later, they gave the go-ahead to keep distributing the vaccine, albeit with a warning about the clots. The pause, however, may have damaged public confidence in the vaccine’s safety. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted while the vaccine was on hold, Americans said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was safe by a slim 46 percent to 41 percent margin. By contrast, they thought that Moderna’s vaccine was safe 71 percent to 16 percent and that Pfizer’s was safe 73 percent to 17 percent. Most concerningly, 73 percent of unvaccinated people said they would not be willing to receive a shot from Johnson & Johnson.
  • Morning Consult surveyed residents of 14 countries about their views of the United States both on the day of Biden’s inauguration and again on April 25. On average, foreigners’ views of the U.S. have gotten 9 points more favorable, on net, in that span, with the Germans (+47 points), Japanese (+39 points), French (+37 points), British (+30 points), Spanish (+26 points) and Russians (+6 points) switching from a net unfavorable view of the U.S. to a net favorable one. Only in China (-13 points) and South Korea (-2 points) have opinions of the U.S. gotten worse over the last few months.
  • According to YouGov, 13 percent of Americans experience a lot of déjà vu — the strange feeling we sometimes get that we’ve lived through something before. Another 47 percent have experienced it sometimes, while 30 percent have rarely experienced it. Only 6 percent say they have never felt déjà vu — the strange feeling we sometimes get that we’ve lived through something before.

Biden approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,1 53.9 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 41.7 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of +12.2 points). At this time last week, 53.3 percent approved and 40.2 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of +13.0 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 54.1 percent and a disapproval rating of 39.4 percent, for a net approval rating of +14.7 points.


Republicans can govern without winning a majority. That threatens our democracy.


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Footnotes

  1. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

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