After 100 days, how is Biden faring domestically?

Slim majority of Americans support the new president, but road ahead looks bumpy

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about his infrastructure plan during an event to tout the plan at Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

When President Joe Biden took office in January, America was in the throes of a devastating pandemic, an economic crisis and racial and political tension.

He promised swift new policies to get America back on track and, so far at least, most Americans approve of his actions.

As Mr Biden marks his 100th day in office on Thursday, he can boast of making good on some of the promises he made while campaigning – from tackling Covid-19 to fighting climate change to securing financial assistance packages for Americans.

In a survey produced by Ipsos for Reuters, he had a 55 per cent overall approval rating. While that’s higher than Donald Trump managed to receive after his first 100 days, it’s less than other recent presidents, underscoring America’s deep partisan split.

Still, Thomas Balcerski, a presidential historian at Eastern Connecticut State University, said the buzz around Mr Biden has been palpable.

"In terms of how the American people are taking to Biden's legislative packages and programmes, we haven't seen this kind of energy since Ronald Reagan," Mr Balcerski told The National.

Since Mr Biden took office, about 100 million Americans have received both doses of vaccine against Covid-19, easily surpassing his goal of administering 100 million initial shots in his first 100 days. The US reached 100 million shots on day 59 of his presidency.

According to the poll, Americans support his handling of the pandemic, with 65 per cent of the population – including 39 per cent of Republicans – expressing approval.

On the legislative front, Mr Biden’s most significant accomplishment has been his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, the largest stimulus bill in US history, which included direct payments of up to $1,400 for most Americans.

“The American Rescue Plan, his Covid relief bill, is to the delight of most Americans. It has wide popular approval,” Mr Balcerski said.

His next big push, which faces hurdles in Congress, is a major spending plan that would put $2tn towards “historic” investments in infrastructure, clean energy and other areas.

The "Build Back Better Recovery Plan" will be Mr Biden's first big test. Americans generally approve of the proposal but Republican members of Congress say it costs too much and that they will oppose it at every turn.

“Infrastructure is another [area] where we’re seeing broad 60 to 65 per cent support. We’re seeing all 50 states benefiting from it and we’re seeing it fit within a long history of government support,” Mr Balcerski said.

Climate change and immigration

Mr Biden rejoined the Paris climate accord on his first day in office, fulfilling a campaign pledge and delivering on his longer-term goal of making climate change a national priority.

He also signed a series of executive actions to address climate change issues, established an Office of Domestic Climate Policy at the White House, scrapped the Keystone XL oil pipeline and stopped drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Last week, he held a virtual climate summit for world leaders.

Biden’s biggest political vulnerability so far is immigration, with apprehensions on the US-Mexico border up sharply, including an increase in unaccompanied minors.

Mr Biden fulfilled a promise of stopping construction on Mr Trump’s border wall, but strict immigration policies for asylum seekers at the southern border remain in place.

However, he did reverse Mr Trump’s “Muslim Ban”, a rule barring visitors from several Muslim-majority countries, on his first day in office.

Racial justice

The president has been outspoken in his support of racial equality and is pushing for Congress to pass police reforms.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would hold law enforcement more accountable for misconduct and ban certain training and techniques, including the use of choke holds.

Mr Biden has a close relationship with the family of George Floyd, whose murder by a Minneapolis policeman last year sparked a summer of protests across the US.

“I assured the Floyd family that we’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so I can sign it into law right away,” he tweeted.

Wide approval among supporters and progressives

According to the Ipsos poll, about 90 per cent of Democrats approve of Biden, while 8 per cent disapprove. Among independents, 51 per cent approve and 39 per cent disapprove.

Domestically, the previously centrist president has swung left. Even detractors within his party have been surprised.

“President Biden has definitely exceeded expectations that progressives had,” said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the House of Representatives. “I’ll be frank, I think a lot of us expected a much more conservative administration.”

What's next?

The next 18 months will be crucial for Mr Biden and they likely won’t be as smooth as the first few months.

"Looking forward, things are more dicey," Cliff Young of Ipsos told The National. "If you look at the issues landscape as the pandemic recedes in importance, the other issues are more problematic and more divisive for the Biden administration."

While Mr Biden won some support among Republicans for his handling of the pandemic, the majority are not pleased with his overall performance. According to the Ipsos poll, only 20 per cent of Republicans expressed support for Mr Biden and conservative politicians have been hammering home the message that he represents the “radical left”.

"Republicans are united," Rick Scott, a senator from Florida, told George Stephanopoulos on This Week. "We don't like the Biden agenda. Republicans like a secure border, open schools."

Mr Scott, who is leading his party’s fund-raising for the 2022 midterm elections, believes Mr Biden is helping Republicans.

“I know we’re going to have a big win in ‘22 and Biden is helping us each and every day,” he said.

Both Mr Young and Mr Balcerski agree: the president only has until the 2022 midterm elections, which tend to favour the party not in power, to set his agenda.

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS