The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Post-ABC poll: Biden earns high marks for handling the pandemic, but many Republicans resist vaccination

President Biden speaks about jobs and the economy in the South Court Auditorium at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on July 2. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

President Biden has earned high marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but the government’s effort to vaccinate as many Americans as possible continues to face hurdles, including resistance among people who identify as Republicans, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Biden made addressing the pandemic his first priority as president. He and his team pushed to accelerate the distribution of vaccine doses, developed during the Trump administration, and pressed Congress to enact a $1.9 trillion stimulus package to help the economy rebound from covid-related shocks and disruptions.

Today, more than 6 in 10 Americans say they approve of the job the president has done in dealing with the pandemic, almost identical to findings in April as he neared the end of his first 100 days in office. His overall approval stands at 50 percent positive and 42 percent negative, figures that are also virtually the same as in April.

In both cases, there are huge differences in ratings offered by Republicans and Democrats, a fresh signal of the nation’s defining partisan breach. On his overall job rating, 94 percent of Democrats approve compared with 8 percent of Republicans. On the pandemic, Democrats are at 95 percent approving, Republicans at 33 percent.

Read full results and how the poll was conducted

One low mark for the president comes on the issue of immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, where 33 percent of Americans say they approve of how he is handling the issue, amid a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the country. A slight majority (51 percent) say they disapprove, including 90 percent of Republicans. Sixteen percent overall say they have no opinion.

Among fellow Democrats, a tepid 63 percent majority approve of Biden’s handling of immigration at the southern border, while 15 percent disapprove and the rest offer no opinion.

Political independents split on Biden’s overall performance, with 45 percent approving and 43 percent disapproving. While 56 percent of independents approve of Biden’s handling of the pandemic, half as many approve of his handling of immigration at the southern border.

Two months ago, Biden set a goal of having 70 percent of adults receive at least one shot by July 4, but the administration has missed that target, despite multiple strategies to encourage people to get vaccinated and targeted efforts to reach younger Americans and people of color who have been hardest hit by covid-19.

Calculations compiled by The Post show that about 67 percent of adults had received at least one shot as of late last week, on a path to hit Biden’s 70 percent target by late July. Daily vaccinations have dropped dramatically since their peak of more than 3 million per day earlier this spring, now averaging about 1 million per day.

The poll shows that while there is room for growth in vaccinations, going well beyond the 70 percent target could prove difficult. Nine percent of those surveyed say they either definitely or probably will get vaccinated at some point in the future. But nearly 3 in 10 (29 percent) say they are not likely to get vaccinated, including 20 percent saying they will definitely not do so. The 29 percent who say they are not likely to take a vaccine compares with 24 percent who said that in April.

The differences between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of vaccinations are stark, just as they were about reopening the economy during the worst of the pandemic. The survey finds that 86 percent of Democrats have received at least one shot of a vaccine, compared with 45 percent of Republicans. Another 7 percent of Democrats say they are likely to do so, compared with 4 percent of Republicans.

But while 6 percent of Democrats say they aren’t likely to get vaccinated, 47 percent of Republicans fall into that camp, with 38 percent of Republicans overall saying they will definitely not get shots against the virus.

Most independents (54 percent) say they have received at least one shot and another 11 percent say they are likely to do so. Among independents, 22 percent say they will definitely not get vaccinated.

Regionally, there are significant variations in the rate of vaccinations, with lower rates in states dominated by Republicans. Seventy-five percent of adults in the mostly Democratic Northeast say they have received at least one shot. That compares with 62 percent in the West, 56 percent in the South and 53 percent in the Midwest. The Midwest shows the highest level of regional resistance to vaccination, with 27 percent saying they will definitely not get a vaccine.

In keeping with those divisions, Biden’s job performance is viewed in starkly different terms among those who have been vaccinated and those who have not. About 2 in 3 of adults who have gotten at least one shot approve of how he is doing his job, compared with fewer than 1 in 3 of the unvaccinated. Eight in 10 vaccinated Americans rate him positively for his handling of the pandemic, compared with fewer than 4 in 10 of those not vaccinated.

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More than 600,000 people have died in the United States from covid-19, with nearly 34 million cases reported. In the Post-ABC poll, 3 in 4 Americans say they have not contracted covid-19. Another 11 percent report that they have tested positive, while 12 percent say they think they had covid-19 but never tested positive.

A majority of Americans (69 percent) say they are at either low or no risk of contracting the disease, while 29 percent consider themselves at either moderate or high level of risk. Notably, unvaccinated people are less likely to say they are at risk of getting sick from the coronavirus than those who have received a vaccine, 22 percent vs. 32 percent.

Those perceptions of risk come at a time when the delta variant, a new strain that is considered highly transmissible, has been spreading in this country and at an even faster pace in other countries. U.S. officials have warned about the dangers of the delta strain, which has raised questions in some parts of the country about whether even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors.

Asked about the accuracy of these warnings about the delta variant, 45 percent say they believe U.S. officials are accurately describing the risk while 35 percent say the warnings are exaggerated. Nearly 1 in 5 express no opinion. Among unvaccinated Americans, 60 percent believe U.S. officials are exaggerating the delta variant’s risk, compared with 18 percent who say they are describing it accurately; 64 percent of vaccinated Americans say officials are accurately describing the strain.

Again, there is a sharp partisan divide, with 57 percent of Republicans saying officials are exaggerating the delta variant’s risk, compared with 39 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats. There is also an educational divide, with 59 percent of those with college degrees calling the warnings accurate, compared with 38 percent of those who do not have degrees.

Along with limited feelings of risk, there is a greater sense among Americans that their communities have moved significantly in the direction of recovering from the pandemic. Six in 10 Americans say their community has recovered, with 16 percent saying their communities are fully recovered and 44 percent saying they are mostly so. Of the 36 percent who paint a gloomier picture, 22 percent say their community has partly recovered while 14 percent say theirs have a long way to go.

Black adults are less likely to say their community has recovered (46 percent) than White adults (63 percent); 58 percent of Hispanic adults say their community has recovered.

The federal government’s initial handling of the pandemic drew widespread criticism, much of it leveled at President Donald Trump, who often disagreed with the health and science experts in his administration and sought to play down the severity of the crisis. Trump’s approval rating on the pandemic, after being initially positive, remained strongly negative throughout the remainder of his presidency.

Today, a majority of Americans (56 percent) say they are either very or somewhat confident that the nation has learned lessons from this pandemic that will make the response to another pandemic in the future more effective. Democrats are significantly more positive in their assessment than are Republicans or independents.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted June 27-30 among a random national sample of 907 adults, with a margin of sampling error for overall results of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Error margins are larger among subgroups.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.