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Axios-Ipsos poll: Biden’s window of opportunity on COVID

February 23, 2021
Data: Axios-Ipsos survey; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

One month into his administration, President Biden has won the confidence of a majority of Americans in his ability to get Americans vaccinated and reopen the schools, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The catch: That confidence will only last if Americans see a clear improvement in their lives and a path back to normal, or something close to it, in the coming months.

By the numbers: 63% of respondents in this week’s poll said they’re very or somewhat confident in the new administration’s ability to make the vaccines widely available, with 36% saying they’re not very confident or not confident at all.

  • 58% said they’re confident that the administration can distribute the vaccines quickly, while 41% said they’re not confident.
  • And 56% said they’re confident in the administration’s ability to get K-12 students back to school in person, while 43% say they’re not confident.

Hyper-partisanship is driving these numbers.

  • Democrats are strongly confident in the Biden administration, while Republicans showed a lopsided lack of confidence and independents narrowly back the administration.
  • On schools, for example, Democrats have confidence in the Biden administration 81% to 18%, Republicans lack confidence 29% to 71%, and independents lean toward the administration 56% to 44%.

Since October, right before the election, public opinion has completely reversed itself on whether the federal government has gotten better or worse at handling the pandemic.

  • When we asked the question in late October, 26% of respondents said the federal government’s handling had gotten better since the beginning of the pandemic, with 46% saying it had gotten worse.
  • In this week’s poll, those results had flipped: 45% now say the federal government’s handling of the pandemic has gotten better, with 26% saying it has gotten worse.

Between the lines: Biden has built much of his presidency on his promise to help get the pandemic under control, from his push for the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package to his bulk orders of extra doses of vaccines and his public vows to put scientists’ recommendations front and center.

  • The promise of bringing competence and seriousness to the federal government’s COVID response is “Biden’s bailiwick,” said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.
  • That means he’ll be judged on his results, Young said, and Americans will be looking for a real improvement in their lives in the coming months, from the safe reopening of schools to the ability to go to restaurants and other public places again.
  • “If this thing keeps stretching out … that could erode fairly quickly his underlying support,” Young said. “I think Americans will give him more than 100 days, but probably less than six months.”

Of note: There’s been a slight decline in the share of Americans who say they’re worried about getting sick, from 74% two weeks ago to 69% now.

  • But at the same time, the share of Americans who are wearing two masks has inched up as public health experts have started to recommend it — from 15% in our poll at the end of January to 21% now.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Feb. 19-22 by Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,029 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.

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