Politico

Biden’s selling an ambitious agenda. Americans still aren’t sure what it is.


Joe Biden has a lot of plans.

Whether Americans can differentiate among them — or even name them — is a different matter.

A new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll released Wednesday shows that 61 percent of those surveyed were not familiar with the “American Jobs Plan” and 62 percent were not familiar with the “American Families Plan” — the names of two proposals making up what the White House and Democrats hope to hold up as signature achievements in the 2022 midterm elections.

That could pose hurdles down the road for the president, who is banking on those ambitious, sweeping plans to not only reinvigorate the economy but register with voters when they head back to the ballot box.

The plans, which amount to nearly $4 trillion combined in spending, would fund billions of dollars in infrastructure projects across the country, and greatly enhance the social safety net through things like child care and parental leave, while making historic investments in tackling climate change.


In poll after poll, those individual components of the bills garner strong support from the public, which Biden advisers say is more important than familiarity with the names of the plans themselves.

“The overwhelming consensus among public polls is that these plans — which independent studies show would help create millions of jobs, fundamentally change the game for families, and even reverse the long term decline in job opportunities for Americans without college degrees — are resonating with a decisive majority of the country; and in some cases with a majority of Republicans,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates.

But the survey suggests that the White House has work to do in explaining to the public that Biden’s bills actually contain those popular provisions.

Biden’s approval rating in the Morning Consult poll clocked in at 55 percent approval and 41 disapproval — with 50 percent approving of his handling of the economy and 40 percent disapproving — underscoring that the president is in strong political shape even as the public remains unfamiliar with his primary legislative initiatives. But the survey also shows a split on the perception of where the country is headed, with 49 percent saying the nation is on the right track and 51 percent on the wrong track. That’s flipped slightly from one month ago, when 53 percent said things were headed in the right direction and 47 percent thought the country was on the wrong track.

On the White House’s immediate legislative initiatives, the survey showed that 52 percent of Democrats queried were not familiar with the American Families Plan, and 63 percent of the Republican were not familiar with it, as well as 76 percent of Independents. Just over one-third of those surveyed, 35 percent, said they were familiar with the plan and correctly identified it as a Democratic proposal.

When asked about the American Jobs Plan, which the Biden administration has identified as mostly containing “hard infrastructure” like roads, bridges and tunnels, 47 percent of the Democrats surveyed were not familiar with it, 72 percent of respondents who identified themselves as independents were not familiar with it, and 67 percent of Republican voters polled were not familiar with it. Just over a third of those polled said they were familiar with the American Jobs Plan and correctly identified it as a Democrat proposal.

The data underscored something that is often true but rarely appreciated among the politically active: the public is paying far less attention to the day-to-day news cycle than they are. But, on a larger level, the findings speak to the salesmanship that’s still up ahead for Biden and Democrats as they try to persuade Republicans to support an infrastructure bill and consider passing it without GOP backing.


The White House has gone to great lengths to sell individual ideas within the Jobs and Family plans — including naming specific infrastructure targets in places like Georgia and Louisiana — or advertising that Biden aims to tax the wealthy, expand the child tax credit or invest in early childhood education. Biden himself, as well as key surrogates like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, have also keyed in on messaging around inequities in the tax system, stressing that the plans aim to shift the tax burden onto the wealthy.

But they’ve also touted the overall plans themselves.

Just Tuesday, the president’s Twitter feed gave one of his proposals a shout out by name — with some context: “No one should have to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and their loved ones. The American Families Plan will finally provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.”

With the White House’s blessing, an outside group called Building Back Together was launched earlier this year, tasked with reinforcing messaging around Biden’s proposals, including in key battleground states.

Recent talking points from the group, obtained by POLITICO, illustrated one of the difficulties that has come with the sales job: there are several similar-sounding bills to sell.

“From the American Rescue Plan, to the American Jobs Plan, to the American Families Plan,” the introduction to the talking points began, “the Biden Administration is putting fairness at the center of our economic recovery.”

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