Feb 23, 2021 - Health

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

Data: Axios-Ipsos survey; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios
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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