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President Joe Biden. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Americans overwhelmingly want Republicans to work with Biden, poll finds

Domestic terrorism a top concern for both parties, but pandemic remains at forefront of voters’ minds

By Nikita Biryukov, January 27 2021 12:00 pm

Americans overwhelmingly want Republicans in Congress to work with President Joe Biden, a Monmouth University Poll released Wednesday found.

More than two-thirds of respondents, 71%, said they’d prefer the minority party work with the new president than keep him in check, 25%. Republicans have started to come around to that idea, with support for bipartisanship among them rising to 41%, from 28% in November.

Almost all Democrats, 94%, and seven-in-ten independents believe the same.

“Bipartisanship is certainly an aspiration for the Biden era, but public optimism about achieving it is a bit muted,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth Poll.

A slimmer majority, 60%, are very or somewhat confident that Biden can improve Washington’s bipartisanship. That’s up from 51% in November.

Monmouth’s first measure of the new President’s job approvals, 54%-30%, already put him above any recorded for President Donald Trump during his term. But the results were split sharply along party lines, with just 15% of Republicans holding a positive opinion of Biden.

Most Americans, 61%, are optimistic about Biden’s policy, up from 50% when Trump was about to take office in 2017. The results were again sharply split along partisan faults. Just 18% of Republicans showed optimism, compared to 95% of Democrats.

Those numbers are slightly better than they were for Trump, who won optimism from 90% of Republicans and 18% of Democrats as he started his term.

“Overall, there seems to be more goodwill for Biden than there was for Trump, but it really breaks down along partisan lines,” Murray said. “Right now, more people identify as Democrats than Republicans.”

Congressional approvals have also shot up to a high watermark of 35%, up from the previous high of 32% recorded during the early months of the pandemic. Then, as now, more than half of respondents disapproved of the nation’s legislative body.

More than two-thirds of respondents, 68%, think Biden’s policy will benefit the middle class. Only 61% said the same of Trump as he took office. At 55%, the number was even lower for President Barack Obama as he began his second term.

“Bolstering the middle class is usually considered the backbone of a successful presidency. But Biden probably faces more countervailing pressures on which issues to address than any other president in our lifetimes,” Murray said.

Three-in-ten Americans said middle class families would benefit a lot from Biden’s policy, while 39% said they’d benefit a little and 27% said his policies wouldn’t help at all.

The pandemic remains at the front of voters’ minds, with 81% saying it was an extremely (47%) or very (34%) important issue, though only 27% of Republicans thought the pandemic was that dire, compared to 63% of Democrats.

Domestic terrorism, unemployment, health care and schools also topped that list, with more than 80% saying each was extremely or very important. Election laws and voting access nearly made that list, but only 34% said the issue was extremely important to address. More than four-in-ten, 41%, said it was very important.

There’s bad news for Republicans planning to rely on attacks over left-wing groups like antifa or socialism. Just 48% said it was extremely (19%) or very (29%) important to address such groups.

“The top priorities tend to focus on bread-and-butter issues, with one exception: the growing threat of domestic terrorism posed by hate groups,” Murray said. “At the other end of the spectrum, the anarchy of left-wing radicals, while important, does not seem to pose quite the same existential threat.”

Concerns about domestic terrorism cut across party lines. While more Democrats (49%) thought domestic terrorism was extremely important, a sizeable contingent of Republicans (37%) said the same.

“It’s interesting that domestic terrorism makes it to the top of the list for both Democrats and Republicans and that it is an even bigger concern for the latter group than left wing radicalism,” Murray said. “One possible reason is a dawning realization that these hate groups not only threaten American society but could also have a detrimental effect on the GOP brand.”

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