When President Joe Biden entered the Oval Office in January 2021, coronavirus cases in the United States were at their peak. In the subsequent six months, as cases dropped significantly and vaccines were administered quickly, the new President was widely praised for his management of the crisis, largely driving positive approval ratings of his Administration.
But now, with the initial boost provided by the vaccine rollout wearing off and cases again climbing, Americans are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Although the Administration’s net approval rating on the pandemic remains positive—indeed, it is the only policy area that elicits a positive rating—this rating has been on a downward spiral in recent months.
Americans now give the Biden Administration’s response to the pandemic a net approval rating of +8%, a figure which has fallen from +14% in October, +18% in September, and +23% in August. In our latest poll, 45% indicate that they approve and 37% disapprove of the Administration’s performance in this regard. Meanwhile, earlier on in March, 60% approved and 21% disapproved of President Biden’s handling of the crisis, resulting in a net approval rating of +39%.
Amidst this declining approval of Joe Biden’s pandemic management, the American public has become less convinced that Biden has handled the crisis any better than his predecessor. In a March 2021 poll, over half (52%) of respondents said Joe Biden had managed the coronavirus crisis better than Donald Trump, while 23% thought he had managed it worse. Now, Americans are divided between believing President Biden has handled the coronavirus crisis better (39%) and worse (36%) than President Trump.
Accordingly, the proportion of respondents who hold the view that Biden has had the superior response to the pandemic has decreased by 13 points in the last eight months.
This shift is mainly driven by 2020 Donald Trump voters, who were more likely to say that the two leaders have responded ‘no differently’ in March (33%) than they are in November (16%). Instead, 70% of Trump voters now find President Biden has handled the crisis worse than the former President, compared to 47% in March. But Biden’s own voter base has also lost some of its faith that he has performed better than his predecessor in this realm, decreasing from 89% in March to 73% in our latest poll.
These results are highly troubling for an Administration whose plan to tackle the crisis has been widely considered its key strength since the 2020 Presidential Election, when the pandemic as an election issue worked largely in Biden’s favour. Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic is selected as the policy area in which the Biden Administration has performed best by a plurality (35%) of respondents.
But as this perception fades and frustration with the ongoing crisis grows, Joe Biden may soon be left with nowhere to hide, amidst increasingly negative approval ratings in other key policy areas like the economy and immigration. As the Democrats seek to maintain their grip on Congress in next year’s Midterm Elections, they will need to prepare for the reality that the coronavirus pandemic may not be a reliable ‘trump card’ for the Party this time around.