U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the Treaty Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
Andrew Harnik | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Joe Biden begins his presidency having achieved out of the gate what his predecessor could only do once during his four years: a positive approval rating.
The CNBC All-America Economic Survey finds that 47% of the public approves of Biden's handling of the presidency, with 41% disapproving. A substantial 12% say they are not sure.
Former President Donald Trump managed to get above the breakeven level just once in the survey, in March 2020.
Key to Biden's support is a 62% approval rating for his handling of the coronavirus. A 46% plurality approve of his handling of the economy with 41% disapproving. But the president appears to have trouble ahead with just 29% approving of his handling of immigration and 52% disapproving.
“While almost a third of Republicans are willing to give Biden good marks on Covid, virtually none are willing to give him good marks on immigration,” said Jay Campbell, partner at Hart Research Associates, and the Democratic pollster for the CNBC survey. “If there was nothing else to talk about, I think this would be an enormous problem for Biden right now and it has the potential to grow into a bigger problem.”
Another possible concern: 40% or the public believe Biden's policies are “too liberal,” compared to 26% who see them as neither too liberal nor too conservative and 6% who say they are too conservative. 28% say they are unsure.
While Biden benefitted from the popularity of his $1.9 trillion relief plan, the recently proposed $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan is less popular. It has support of 36% of the public, compared with 33% who disapprove and 31% who are unsure.
American's views on the current economic situation are unchanged from December, with 34% saying the economy is excellent or good. That's well above the levels from the first term of former President Barack Obama, when the measure was in the single digits for the first two years.
A big driver of the change: Democrats have become more optimistic, Republicans more pessimistic and independents are about the same. It's a flip that occurs every time the occupant of the White House changes parties and shows how economic attitudes for many are filtered first through the political prism.
But it's more severe now due to hyper-partisanship.
“About a quarter of partisans from the opposite party were willing to give (presidents) Bush, Clinton and Obama a chance,” said Campbell. “There's not much chance being given to Biden, nor was there to Trump by Democrats.”
Good news for Biden came in views on the economic outlook.
They took a turn upward with 44% of the public believing the economy will improve in the next year, up from 38% in the December survey.
Buoyant views on the housing market helped the outlook, with 48% believing their home values will increase in the next year, the highest level since 2019.
Wage expectations are muted, however, with just 27% expecting an increase in the next year, the lowest level since 2011. That could be because the job market remains troubled as it bounces back from the recession.
However, many people have just recently received wage hikes through an increase in the minimum wage and they may not be expecting another one soon.
“That's the lowest percentage of American adults expecting their wages to increase in a decade,” said Micah Roberts, partner at Public Opinion Research and the survey's Republican pollster. “And that's a very, very troubling number, especially as a core tenet of what Democrats and the Biden administration want to do is increase wages.”
Opinions on the stock market were as mixed as they've almost ever been.
Some 37% say it's a good time to invest and 35% believe it's a bad time, with 28% unsure. The good time/bad time difference is as narrow a difference as it's been since 2019, and such narrow margins have preceded increases in the stock market.
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