Americans open to Biden’s approach to crises, poll says

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In this Feb. 2, 2021, photo, President Joe Biden stands with Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, right, after signing three executive orders on immigration, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. A majority of Americans say they have at least some confidence in PBiden and his ability to manage the myriad crises facing the nation, including the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(AP) – Two weeks into a new administration, a majority of Americans say they have at least some confidence in President Joe Biden and his ability to manage the myriad crises facing the nation, including the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Overall, 61% approve of Biden’s handling of his job in his first days in office, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Though the bulk of Biden's support is from fellow Democrats, about a quarter of Republicans say they approve of his early days in office.

Even at a moment of deep national divisions, those numbers suggest Biden, as with most of his recent predecessors, may enjoy something of a honeymoon period. Nearly all modern presidents have had approval ratings averaging 55% or higher over their first three months in office, according to Gallup polling. There was one exception: Donald Trump, whose approval rating never surpassed 50% in Gallup polls, even at the start of his presidency.

Biden’s standing with the public will quickly face significant tests. He inherited from Trump a pandemic spiraling out of control, a sluggish rollout of crucial vaccines, deep economic uncertainty and the jarring fallout of the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill. It’s a historic confluence of crises that historians have compared to what faced Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War or Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the depths of the Great Depression.

Biden’s advisers know that the new president will be quickly judged by Americans on his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 450,000 people in the U.S. He’s urgently pressing Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion relief package that would include funds for vaccine distribution, school reopening and state and local governments buckling under the strain of the pandemic.

“We have to go big, not small,” Biden told House Democrats on Tuesday. He’s signaled that he’s open to trimming his $1.9 trillion proposal but not as far as some Republicans are hoping. A group of GOP senators has put forward their own $618 billion package.

About three-quarters of Americans say they have at least some confidence in Biden’s ability to handle the pandemic, while about a quarter have hardly any. Still, that confidence is measured — no more than about 4 in 10 say they have “a great deal” of trust in Biden to handle any issue asked about in the poll.

From the start, Biden has sought to differentiate his approach to the pandemic, and governing as a whole, from Trump's. He's empowered public health officials and other experts, putting them at the forefront of briefings on COVID-19 and other policy issues, unlike the former president, who often clashed with members of his coronavirus task force.