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President Joe Biden speaks after a tour of a Pfizer manufacturing site, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Portage, Mich. (AP) President Joe Biden speaks after a tour of a Pfizer manufacturing site, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Portage, Mich. (AP)

President Joe Biden speaks after a tour of a Pfizer manufacturing site, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Portage, Mich. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman February 22, 2021

Do a majority of Republicans support Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan?

If Your Time is short

  • President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is expected to reach a vote in the House in late February and the Senate by mid-March.

  • The White House cited a CBS poll that showed 70% of Republicans approve of Congress passing an additional economic relief package that would provide funds to people and businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The question did not mention Biden or the $1.9 trillion price tag.

  • Quinnipiac and SurveyMonkey/New York Times polls found less than majority support among Republicans for the plan.

President Joe Biden made a forceful pitch to Republicans in Congress to "listen to their constituents" and pass his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to help Americans recover from the pandemic.

"According to the polls, there is overwhelming bipartisan support," Biden said Feb. 19 at a Pfizer plant in Michigan that produces vaccines. "The vast majority of the American people — more than 70% of the American people, with all the polls you all conduct, including a majority of Republicans — want us to act, and act big and quickly and support the plan."

The House is expected to vote on the American Rescue Plan before the end of February, while the Senate is expected to take it up by mid-March. The legislation includes a $1,400 cash payment, aid to help K-12 schools open and money for vaccinations and unemployment assistance. Republican lawmakers have criticized Biden’s plan, with some GOP senators proposing a smaller package.

Polls in late January and February found that most Americans do support Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan. But when we fact-checked his claim that a majority of Republicans support it, we found those who identify as Republican were generally less favorable to the aid package, even if they supported some elements of it.

What the polls show about the American Rescue Plan

The White House cited one poll to back up Biden’s statement about Republican support. A CBS poll conducted by YouGov asked respondents: "Would you approve or disapprove of Congress passing an additional economic relief package that would provide funds to people and businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak?" In response, 70% of Republicans said they approved, while 95% of Democrats approved.

The question did not include the $1.9 trillion price tag, or mention Biden’s name. A subsequent question asked respondents if they think the economic relief package is "too much," "not enough" or "about the right amount." Among Republicans, 38% said the package is too much, while 27% said not enough and 34% said about the right amount.

Two other polls showed less support among Republicans. In those polls, the questions mentioned the $1.9 trillion cost and Biden’s name.

Quinnipiac asked adults: "You may know, the Biden administration has proposed a $1.9 trillion stimulus relief bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Do you support or oppose this bill?" The poll showed 68% support his $1.9 trillion plan overall, but 47% of Republicans said they were opposed, with 16% offering no opinion. In a subsequent question, a majority of Republicans indicated they support a $1,400 stimulus payment.

SurveyMonkey/New York Times asked respondents "Do you approve or disapprove of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which would provide federal support to individuals and businesses impacted by the coronavirus?" The poll found that 72% overall approved, but among Republicans, 56% disapproved.

Asked about certain components of the package, the majority of Republicans identified the $1,400 checks, COVID-19 vaccine distribution and money for state and local governments and schools as important elements.

The wording of poll questions matters

Polls can find different answers to questions on the same topic depending upon the precise wording of the question and whether they include partisan cues.

John G. Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University, pointed to the wording in the CBS/YouGov poll, which asked about "economic relief" and not "stimulus."

"Republicans may favor ‘economic relief’ more than ‘stimulus relief,’" or package, said Geer, who co-directs the Vanderbilt Poll. "Stimulus is governmental activism, which GOPers tend not to support."

Another likely factor is that the CBS question asked about Congress, while the other polls mentioned Biden. "Mentioning Biden activates partisanship," Geer said. "Even though Congress is controlled by the (Democrats), the wording is not as likely to activate that."

Featured Fact-check

Barry C. Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said surveys conducted over the years have shown that mentioning the president’s name in a question creates more resistance from members of the opposite party.

"Compared with other surveys, the CBS/YouGov poll finds more support among Republicans for two reasons: It does not mention the price tag and it does not mention President Biden," Burden said.

Karlyn Bowman, a polling expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said including the cost of the bill in the question probably gave many Republicans pause.

"Including both the cost and a Democratic president’s name could also have inclined many Republicans to oppose it," Bowman said.

Including the cost of the legislation "highlights a downside of the bill without necessarily drawing attention to its benefits," said Burden.

Andrew E. Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said the wording of the questions is critical, because most people probably don’t know the details about what is in the American Rescue Plan.

"I would be surprised that more than 2% of the public could actually tell you what is in the proposal, so they are simply relying on the wording of the question — who favors it, who opposes it, what the question says it will do etc.," Smith said.

Our ruling

Biden said, "The vast majority of the American people" support Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue plan, "including a majority of Republicans."

The White House cited a poll by CBS that found 70% of Republicans approve of Congress passing an additional economic relief package to provide funds to people and businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. But two other polls that included more details in their questions — Quinnipiac and SurveyMonkey/New York Times — found less than majority support among Republicans for the American Rescue Plan.

All three polls showed strong overall support for the plan.

We rate this statement Half True. 


RELATED: Joe Biden exaggerates support among economists for his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan

RELATED: What’s in Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan?

RELATED: What you need to know about the budget reconciliation process

 

Our Sources

Factba.se, President Joe Biden Delivers Remarks at the Pfizer Vaccine Facility in Kalamazoo, Feb. 19, 2021

CBS/YouGov, Poll, Feb. 5-8, 2021

Quinnipiac, Poll, Jan. 28th - Feb. 1, 2021

SurveyMonkey/New York Times, Poll, Feb. 8-14, 2021

Wall Street Journal, Biden Meets Republicans to Discuss Their Covid-19 Stimulus Plan, Feb. 2, 2021

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Transcript of weekly press conference, Feb. 18, 2021

PolitiFact’s Biden Promise Tracker, Biden issues order on safely reopening schools, Jan. 22, 2021

Email interview, Rosemary Boeglin, White House spokesperson, Feb. 22, 2021

Email interview, John G. Geer, co-director of the Vanderbilt poll and political science professor, Feb. 22, 2020

Email interview, Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Feb. 22, 2020

Email interview, Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and professor of practice, political science, Feb. 22, 2020

Email interview, Barry C. Burden, political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Feb. 22, 2021

Email interview, Janine A. Parry, professor and director of Arkansas Poll, Feb. 22, 2021

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