Since the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan a month ago, President Joe Biden's approval rating has recovered some in the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
Last month, just 43 percent of survey respondents approved of how he was doing his job and a majority — 51 percent — disapproved. Since then, Biden has gained back some of that, drawing to about even, with 45 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving.
"Some of it had to do with the proximity of Afghanistan, and that has sort of faded a little bit and is not as prominent in people's minds," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll. Miringoff said Biden appears now to be at "more of a plateau" rather than a continued decline.
The survey of 1,220 adults was conducted from Sept. 20 through Sunday and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points, meaning Biden's approval rating could be about 3 points higher or lower. The 7-point net change in his approval rating from one month to the next is slightly outside the margin of error.
Biden's somewhat-recovered numbers come from registered Democrats and independents. Miringoff noted that Republicans are essentially maxed out in their disapproval of Biden, and that of the 9 percent of respondents unsure of how they feel about the job the president is doing, many are Democratic-leaning voters.
"There are still some Democrats on the table," he said. "Those are winnable people. If he can get past this current congressional battle, there's the potential some of them could come home."
Democrats on Capitol Hill are currently negotiating with themselves over two massive spending bills. Centrists want the price tag of one bill to come down, while progressives want as much investment as they can get in infrastructure, social spending, climate and other measures while Democrats retain control of Congress.
Americans prefer Democrats to control Congress, but with a big caveat
On the question of which party's candidate people would vote for if next year's elections for Congress were held today, respondents chose Democrats by an 8-point margin, 46 percent to 38 percent.
That is the kind of margin Democrats have traditionally needed to do well in congressional elections, given that Democratic voters are typically packed more tightly in districts and Republicans control redistricting in more places in the country.
But Democrats' advantage on the question doesn't necessarily mean it will translate to congressional control, Miringoff noted.
That's because Democrats in the survey have huge leads in the Northeast and the West, where they already have big advantages in congressional seats, he said. But in the Midwest and the South, where a lot of the swing districts are, Republicans lead.
What's also notable is just how much partisanship has taken deep root throughout the country. Just 2 percent of Democrats and 1 percent of Republicans said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate of a different party.
All politics now truly appears to be national.
A majority of respondents trust that elections are fair
Voter fraud in this country has been proven repeatedly to be exceedingly small in scale. Despite that, former President Donald Trump and allies continue to spread false claims and make off-base accusations about the integrity of elections.
Those efforts, though, only appear to be convincing people already predisposed to support Trump.
A majority of respondents in the survey — 56 percent — said they have either a great deal or a good amount of trust that elections in this country are fair. That's actually up slightly from February 2020, before Trump began his conspiratorial election fraud claims.
More than 8 in 10 Democrats and almost 6 in 10 independents said they have trust in U.S. elections, while almost 7 in 10 Republicans said they do not.
Most support Biden's federal vaccination requirements
Some saw Biden's broad federal vaccine requirements as controversial when he unveiled them this month, but a majority of respondents largely agree with them.
Two-thirds said the federal government should require health care workers to be vaccinated, and almost 6 in 10 said the same of executive branch employees. A similar percentage back a vaccine-or-testing requirement for employers with 100 or more workers.
There are partisan divides, of course, but also racial ones. When it comes to the large employer mandate, for example, Latinos are 19 percentage points less likely than Black Americans to support the requirement (57 percent as compared with 76 percent). A slight majority of whites — 53 percent — are also supportive.
Americans are split — 48 percent to 46 percent — however, when it comes to requiring vaccinations to return to work in person.
White women with college degrees are among the most likely to agree, while white evangelical Christians and white men without a college degree are the most likely to say a vaccine for returning to work should not be a requirement.
There's also a generational divide, one that cuts against some preconceived political trends. Even though younger voters are generally more likely to vote Democratic and older voters are more likely to vote Republican, Gen Xers are among the most likely to disagree with such a requirement, while baby boomers and those in the silent generation are among the most likely to say they should be required. The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected older Americans.
Unsurprisingly, Americans said they are stressed. More than a third said they're more stressed today than before the pandemic, while about 4 in 10 said they are equally as stressed as before. Only about 1 in 5 said they are less stressed.
What's notable is who is most stressed. More than 4 in 10 white women without college degrees, who strongly lean toward Republicans, for example, said they are more stressed than before the pandemic.
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