Biden gets 62% approval in CNBC economic survey, topping first ratings of the last four presidents

President Joe Biden is on the best presidential honeymoon since at least Bill Clinton in 1993.

A special online edition of the CNBC All-America Economic Survey focusing on the Biden agenda finds his approval rating at a sky-high 62%, beating the first presidential ratings of Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton and Trump. In fact, Biden's initial rating is 18 points higher than Trump's.

The survey of 1,000 people conducted earlier this month with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5%, sees Biden with majority approval so far for his handling of the economy and for uniting the country. Sixty-five percent of the public approve of his actions so far when it comes to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike Trump, Biden "has made the coronavirus his most important issue in office and throughout the campaign," said Jay Campbell, partner with Hart Research, the Democratic pollster for the survey. "And the health and economic plans he has put forward have a great deal of resonance with the public." Biden also benefited from taking office with a vaccines approved and, hopefully, the worst of the pandemic behind the nation, Campbell said.

But given the prior bitter divisions in the country, Campbell added, " The fact that there even is a honeymoon, I think, to the degree there is, is kind of shocking."

The survey also found strong support for several of the president's key issues, including his proposed $1.9 trillion relief bill, hiking the minimum wage, expanding healthcare coverage and battling inequality.

Focus on pandemic

But it also offered a warning to Biden: when it comes to what Americans believe are the most immediate priorities, fighting the virus, creating jobs and providing relief to businesses and individuals top the list.

For example, 78% of those surveyed say ending the pandemic should be the top priority. But addressing climate change is at the top of the list for only 29% of the public even though an additional 29% say it's important and should be addressed this year.

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The numbers are similar for boosting the minimum wage: with just 30% of the public saying it should be the top priority, but an additional 29% responding that it's important to do this year. Fifty-four percent of the public say a $15 per hour minimum wage is the right level and an additional 10% believe it is too low, with just 36% believing it's too high. That support remains virtually unchanged even when people are asked about whether it's right for their local area. It holds up even though many believe raising the minimum wage could lead to higher prices or job losses.

For example, 83% of the public believe that raising the minimum wage will lead to higher prices. But 59% of that group still think $15 is about right or too low. While 74% of the public believe a higher minimum wage could lead to job losses, 53% of that group still believes $15 is the right number or too low.

"Individual states have taken action on this with varying degrees of success and it's in the political bloodstream so it's not as controversial as it was 3 to 5 years ago,'' said Micah Roberts, a partner with Public Opinion Strategies, the Republican pollster for the survey. Roberts points out, however, that support overall is lower in rural communities.

The survey shows Americans are downbeat on the economy, with 77% characterizing it as just fair or poor, and 23% saying it's good or excellent. However, 36% see the economy improving in the next year, compared with 32% who believe it will get worse and 32% who believe it will stay the same.

Vaccine concerns

While Biden gets high marks for handling of the pandemic, that's not true for how American's view vaccine distribution. More than two-thirds say the government has done a poor or fair job distributing vaccines, though 60% say it will get better in the year ahead.

Americans have no obvious preference for either of the two approved vaccines but about a third of the public won't take either, a sign that achieving herd immunity in the US will be a challenge. About 11% of the public each choose Moderna or Pfizer, and 43% say they have no preference. About 7% say they have already been vaccinated. Groups least willing to take the vaccine include Independent voters, Trump voters and women aged 18-49.

               In other findings of the survey:

  • Corporate donations: By a 63-37% margin, Americans support the decision of corporations to halt donations to members of Congress who voted against certifying the election;
  • Climate Change: 59% of the public believe climate change is a serious problem that should be addressed and by a 50-30% margin, Americans support rejoining the Paris Climate Accords.
  • Made in America: 64% of the public say they are more likely to buy a product made in America and 70% say they are willing to pay more for such a product. But it appears as if paying 10% more is a threshold where Americans would be unwilling to pay more for a US-made product.

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