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Survey Reveals How Americans Think Biden Has Handled The Pandemic


President Biden will mark the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic tonight in a primetime address. That's after he just signed his $1.9 trillion relief package into law today. A new poll from NPR, "PBS NewsHour" and Marist finds that most Americans approve of his handling of the pandemic. NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro joins us to talk about the survey results and Biden's address. Hi, Domenico.


SHAPIRO: What are the top line findings of this survey?

MONTANARO: Well, 62% approve of President Biden's handling of the pandemic, and that happens to include 30% of Republicans and 1 in 5 Trump supporters. We should say this is a national survey and has a margin of error of a little more than three percentage points, so the results could be three points higher or lower. But clearly the approval for Biden on COVID is far outside the margin of error. The relief bill is also broadly popular. A majority says the bill's size and scope is about right or even doesn't go far enough. And, you know, we've heard from a lot of Republicans who've been critical of the bill, calling it bloated and too expensive. Our poll shows that only about a third of Americans agree with that.

SHAPIRO: That all sounds like really good news for President Biden. Is there anything in there that might make him a little cautious?

MONTANARO: Yeah, it's not all entirely rosy. I mean, his overall job approval rating is 49%, which is higher than Trump's ever was, but it isn't extraordinarily high. And only 46% approve of his handling of the economy. Basically, what you have is a significant number of people, especially independents, sitting on the fence waiting to see how Biden does. So the president really needs this bill to translate into economic success for his own political success.

SHAPIRO: So this poll also asked people about the vaccine rollout and how people think it's going. What did it find?

MONTANARO: Well, Americans generally agree that the vaccine distribution is the top priority, but there is a split along party lines. For Democrats and independents, vaccine distribution is the top priority, but for Republicans, it's reopening schools. And we've heard a lot about that. On whether Americans will get the vaccine, more people are now saying that they will or that they have already gotten it - two-thirds are now saying so. And those who are least likely to say that they will get it continue to be Republican men and Trump supporters.

But also significantly, we should point out 37% of Latinos and those younger than 45 are saying they won't get the shot. Latinos are also among the groups most likely to say they've lost a job or income as a result of the pandemic and that they personally know someone who died from the virus. And we should also say we aren't seeing the vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans that other polls have found. In our survey, they're on par with whites in saying that they will get the vaccine. Only 1 in 4 say they won't get it.

SHAPIRO: Interesting. So that's the poll results. Let's talk about the speech tonight. What do you expect the president to say?

MONTANARO: Well, he's going to be balancing, promoting the massive COVID relief bill and trying to prepare the country for what's ahead to try and dig out from under this pandemic. You can expect him to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus being declared a pandemic and talk about the sweep of what's happened in the past year and half a million dead. He'll talk about what he sees as the way out, which you won't be surprised is closely tied to that relief package. And he'll also touch on familiar themes, you know, trying to lay out a hopeful vision of next steps.

But expect that he'll urge caution, ask people to keep wearing those masks, social distance at least for a little while longer. You know, and this is the start of an extensive travel tour promoting this bill that are going to take the president, the vice president and their spouses across the country. And they're going to say help is on the way, that there will be money in people's pockets. And they hope as a result of this infusion, it gives a much-needed boost to the economy over the next six months to a year.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks a lot.

MONTANARO: You're so welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.