IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House on Sept. 24, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House on Sept. 24, 2021.Patrick Semansky / AP file

Build Back Better agenda maintains support, despite GOP pushback

Democrats on Capitol Hill are being asked to support popular plans, which is a vastly easier dynamic than trying to pass unpopular plans.


President Joe Biden was in Michigan yesterday, helping promote his Build Back Better agenda, and Axios reported this morning that he's not alone in hitting the road. Much of the White House cabinet — including Vice President Kamala Harris — is "fanning out" across the country to make the case for the president's legislative domestic plans.

The message appears likely to fall on fertile ground. The latest poll from Quinnipiac University shows Biden's agenda remains popular, despite months of pushback from Republicans and their allies:

Americans say 62 - 34 percent that they support a roughly $1 trillion spending bill to improve the nation's roads, bridges, broadband, and other infrastructure projects.... Americans say 57 - 40 percent that they support a $3.5 trillion spending bill on social programs such as child care, education, family tax breaks, and expanding Medicare for seniors....

Compared to a Quinnipiac poll from two months ago, support for the White House's plan has edged a little lower, but the differences are small and the data still points to a legislative agenda that enjoys broad public support.

It's worth emphasizing for context that the new results from Quinnipiac, which were released yesterday, offered all kinds of bad news for Democrats, especially with regards to the 2022 midterm elections. But that's what makes the Build Back Better results all the more notable: The poll suggests Democrats are facing real political trouble, but voters still support the party's legislative plans.

What's more, there's no reason to see the poll as an outlier. Quinnipiac's results are roughly in line with the latest data from Morning Consult, the Pew Research Center, Data for Progress, Fox News, Monmouth, and Suffolk.

This wasn't altogether predictable: Much of the focus of late has been on the cost of the package, not its contents. And yet, the agenda remains popular anyway.

As for why any of this matters, there are a couple of angles to keep in mind. First, Republicans appear to have convinced themselves that the polling data doesn't exist. Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, for example, was asked a few days ago about the Democrats' Build Back Better agenda. The GOP senator replied, "[T]he American people have figured out that what they're trying to do is institutionalize socialism."

If that's true, institutionalized socialism is a lot more popular than I thought it'd be.

Similarly, conservative media figure Meghan McCain recently said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Biden's proposal is "not polling well." Actual polling suggests otherwise.

But even more important are the practical effects of the surveys on Capitol Hill.

The Democratic plans have plenty of powerful and wealthy critics, but if the right has been counting on some kind of backlash to the president's agenda, it has not materialized. Unlike the organized opposition we saw in the first year of Barack Obama's presidency, Democrats appear to be facing more pressure from their own base than conservatives.

Indeed, during the lengthy fight over the Affordable Care Act, rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers were told, "It's struggling in the polls now, but once it passes, it'll become more popular and the lies will be exposed as nonsense." Members were effectively asked to take a leap of faith.

These are different political circumstances — both qualitatively and quantitatively. Democrats on Capitol Hill are being asked to support popular plans, which creates a vastly easier dynamic than passing unpopular plans. Nervous lawmakers have more to fear from derailing popular legislation than from voting for the bills.