Published October 29, 2021
President Biden’s job approval ratings have been sinking for months as voters increasingly see him as out of touch with their priorities and values. The coming clash over vaccine mandates might be another area where the president has misread the public temperament.
His proposed mandates might look politically shrewd on the surface. Americans are tired of covid-19 restrictions and want to get back to normal. Many see the unvaccinated as the primary obstacle to that goal. Reports of breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated and fear that another, more dangerous variant might emerge combine to make vaccine mandates appear to be just the final, logical step in ending the pandemic.
But polls do not show overwhelming support for Biden’s approach. The most recent Economist-YouGov poll reports that only 52 percent of registered voters back Biden’s mandates, while 43 percent oppose them. That support is drawn almost entirely from Democrats, as Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the mandates and independent voters break 44 percent in favor and 48 percent against. A Georgetown University-Battleground poll finds an even closer breakdown, with 51 percent in favor of private companies mandating their employees to be vaccinated and 45 percent opposed. Both margins give Biden little room for error if things start to go wrong.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.