New Yahoo News/YouGov poll: At 100 days, Americans say Biden has faced bigger challenges and performed better than Trump

Andrew Romano
·West Coast Correspondent
·6-min read

Americans believe that President Biden faced bigger challenges than his predecessor Donald Trump during his first 100 days in office — and performed better than Trump despite those difficulties, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The survey of 1,558 U.S. adults, which was conducted from April 27 to April 29, found that less than a third say Trump’s challenges were bigger than Biden’s (31 percent) or that Trump performed better (32 percent) during the first 100 days of his presidency. Pluralities say Biden has performed better than Trump (41 percent) in the face of greater obstacles (37 percent).

The favorable comparison with Trump underscores a broader takeaway for Biden: At the historic 100-day mark, Americans largely approve of his presidency. In fact, Biden’s overall approval rating has now climbed to 54 percent, the highest it has ever been in a Yahoo News/YouGov poll. His disapproval rating stands at just 37 percent.

In contrast, Trump’s approval rating never averaged more than 48 percent, a peak he reached five days into his tenure; at 100 days, 53 percent of Americans disapproved of Trump’s performance, while just 42 percent approved. A majority of Americans continued to disapprove of Trump for the remainder of his presidency.

When Biden took office, he bet that voters would judge his presidency on one thing and one thing only: his approach to COVID-19 and the economic damage it has inflicted. To date, their assessment has been overwhelmingly positive, and Biden’s emphasis on these issues appears to be driving his overall popularity.

A full 57 percent of Americans, for instance, approve of the way he has handled the pandemic, and even more say they favor the three main goals Biden set for his first 100 days (and then largely achieved): passing a COVID-19 relief package (64 percent favor, 20 percent oppose); administering 200 million COVID-19 vaccines in 100 days (67 percent favor, 14 percent oppose); and reopening a majority of schools (62 percent favor, 15 percent oppose). Even 28 percent of Republicans approve of Biden’s work on COVID-19, more than approve of his approach to any other issue. Among independents, that number rises to 58 percent.

As a result, a sizable majority of Americans say Biden has been either a better president than they expected (39 percent) or about the same (24 percent); just 28 percent say he has been worse. More than three-quarters say he has kept all (12 percent), most (30 percent) or some (24 percent) of his promises, with a majority saying he’s done better on this front than previous presidents (31 percent) or about the same (24 percent).

Joe Biden
President Biden at the White House on Tuesday. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The question going forward is whether Biden can sustain this momentum as he enters a new phase of his presidency that will be defined by his efforts to pass the $4.1 trillion worth of legislation he outlined Wednesday in his first joint address to Congress.

Asked about Biden’s “$2 trillion legislative package designed to modernize America’s infrastructure and combat climate change” — which includes “increasing funding for rural broadband internet access, investing in electric vehicles and providing advanced training for workers in manufacturing and other industries” — 47 percent of Americans say they favor it versus 32 percent who say they do not.

The numbers for Biden’s second big proposal — a “$1.8 trillion legislative package designed to support working families” with “childcare subsidies, national paid family leave and universal pre-K” — are slightly better, at 50 percent favor to 30 percent oppose.

As in previous Yahoo News/YouGov polls, Americans continue to side with Democrats over Republicans over what counts as infrastructure. When asked if legislation should solely address physical structures such as bridges and roads — which is the GOP’s position — less than a quarter of Americans (23 percent) agree. More than twice that number (51 percent) agree with Biden that the next big bill from Congress should also tackle other types of infrastructure such as energy, water, housing, health care, manufacturing and communications systems. Likewise, a majority of Americans — 53 percent favor to 31 percent oppose — continue to support paying for such a plan by raising taxes on corporations and Americans making more than $400,000.

Yet there are signs that Biden will face new hurdles in the weeks and months ahead. More Americans, for instance, want Congress to spend less (25 percent) or nothing (14 percent) on Biden's proposals rather than “as much as it takes” (38 percent). Partisan pushback is also increasing: While just 36 percent of Republicans opposed prospective COVID-19 relief in late February, 60 percent now say they oppose Biden’s infrastructure and climate change proposal, and 57 percent say they oppose his package for working families.

Meanwhile, Biden receives lower marks from Americans on issues other than COVID-19. In some areas — such as the economy (49 percent approve), race (47 percent approve) and climate change (47 percent) — he maintains net positive ratings. Yet in others — immigration (38 percent approve, 47 percent disapprove) and guns (38 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove) — he is underwater.

And so the prospect for Biden’s next 100 days is mixed. To date, Americans give the president a moderately positive score — 47 percent approve, 30 percent disapprove — for his efforts to “work with Republicans in Congress to pass legislation,” and more of them (42 percent) say Biden is willing to work with Republicans in Congress than say Republicans are willing to work with him (24 percent).

But given the stark polarization of American politics — and the ambitiousness of Biden’s agenda, which includes sweeping bills on immigration, guns, policing and voting rights — it seems unlikely that the president will make much progress on bipartisanship this year.

This could be a problem. Despite disagreement at either side of the political spectrum — 43 percent of self-identified “strong Democrats” want Biden and his party to pass bills without trying to get Republican support, while a full 50 percent of “strong Republicans” want their party to stop all bills proposed by Biden and the Democrats — most Americans still cherish the idea of compromise. Exactly half (50 percent) say they want Biden and the GOP to cooperate “so they can pass bills with support from both sides”; fewer than 1 in 5 say they’d prefer for Democrats to go it alone (18 percent) or Republicans to block everything (16 percent). Even majorities of Democrats (52 percent) and Republicans (52 percent) favor bipartisanship.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,558 U.S. adults interviewed online from April 27 to 29, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or non-vote), and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.8 percent.

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