Biden Claims GOP Voters Support His Infrastructure Plan; Poll Shows They Don't
President Biden and his team have been making a simple case for why Republican elected officials should support his roughly $2 trillion infrastructure plan: Lawmakers might not like it, but their voters do.
"Overwhelmingly, the majority of the American people — Democrats, Republicans and independents — support infrastructure investments that meets the moment," Biden said last week. "So, I urge the Congress: Listen to your constituents and, together, we can lay a foundation for an economy that works for everyone and allows America to remain the world leader."
Biden and other administration officials have made that case repeatedly, but it is hardly true. While a majority of American adults support his infrastructure proposal — 56% — including 9 in 10 Democrats and half of independents, Republicans overwhelmingly do not, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey.
Republicans also disagree with how Biden wants to pay for it all, indicating the president is likely to get little-to-no GOP congressional support for another big-ticket legislative item.
Overall in this survey, Americans view Biden well. With more Americans getting vaccinated against COVID-19, the president gets his highest overall job approval rating (53%) and his highest approval for his handling of the economy (54%).
Almost all of that support comes from Democrats and independents. Republicans and independents do line up in some areas in the survey — notably, they are strongly against some ways to pay for infrastructure improvements and neither believes corporations or professional sports teams and organizations should be speaking out to promote cultural, political or social change.
But mostly Republicans are out of step with independents, a key group the GOP has traditionally needed to win presidential elections and to do well in House races in the suburbs. That puts the GOP in a pickle ahead of next year's midterm elections. A president's first midterm usually favors the party out of power as Americans look to put a check on a new leader.
What is infrastructure?
There are multiple items in Biden's proposal, from improvements to roads and bridges, replacing all lead pipes and propping up the energy grid, to electric vehicle charging stations. Biden is seeking a transformative bill that looks to the future. In doing so, he has drawn criticism for defining "infrastructure" too broadly, an argument Biden dismisses.
"Two hundred years ago, trains weren't traditional infrastructure either until America made a choice to lay down tracks across the country," Biden said last week. "Highways weren't traditional infrastructure until we allowed ourselves to imagine that roads could connect our nation across state lines."
A majority of Americans, if not Republicans, broadly view Biden's proposals as part of what qualifies as infrastructure.
But when it comes to climate change initiatives, such as electric charging stations, Biden's team may be pushing the limits of what Americans think constitutes infrastructure. On that point, Americans are split on whether they qualify.
Tax the wealthy and overseas corporate earnings, but not much else
Even if they agreed on everything in the bill, which they don't, Democratic and Republican leaders have, for years, disagreed on how to pay for even the most basic infrastructure improvements.
That's no different in this survey.
Overall two-thirds, or nearly that many, agree with taxing those making more than $400,000 a year (65%) and with taxing earnings corporations make overseas to at least the 21% that corporations pay on domestic earnings (63%).
That includes at least 8 in 10 Democrats and at least two-thirds of independents on each point. But just a third of Republicans agree with taxing those who make more than $400,000 a year, and only 38% agree with taxing overseas profits at the same rate of U.S. earnings.
Other ideas that have been talked about to pay for the bill are even less popular. Americans are split on hiking the corporate tax rate to higher than 21%. For years it was 35%, until former President Donald Trump's tax cuts slashed that.
Independents and Republicans are also heavily against increasing tolls or the gas tax, while Democrats are split. The gas tax almost exclusively finances federal highway and mass transit spending. It has not been raised since 1993, and it was never indexed to inflation, which means the money that goes into it year after year is effectively less and less.
The one area that Democrats, Republicans and independents are in agreement is that they are all overwhelmingly against raising taxes on all Americans broadly or borrowing money to pay for the plan and add to the national debt.
The results narrow the options for what Biden and elected officials who support the plan can sell to Americans for how to pay for infrastructure.
Major League Baseball moved its planned All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia's recently passed voting restrictions. Several corporations have also taken steps to speak out against the bill and other legislation like it.
But Americans are largely not in favor of this kind of action. Asked if they support or oppose corporations, professional sports teams and other organizations using their role, position or events to influence political, cultural or social change, just 40% said they supported professional sports doing it and just 36% said so of corporations.
There are wide partisan splits: Two-thirds of Democrats support professional sports boycotts, but only a third of independents and just 13% of Republicans do.
When it comes to corporations, a slim majority of Democrats support them speaking out, while again just a third of independents and only 17% of Republicans do.
The survey of 1,266 U.S. adults was conducted between April 7 and Tuesday. The respondents were reached by live callers phoning cellphones and landlines. The margin of error for the overall sample is 3.3 percentage points, meaning the results could be about 3 points higher or 3 points lower. The margin of error when Democrats are referenced is 6.1 percentage points, while for Republicans it's 7 percentage points and independents 6 percentage points.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.