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Biden buoyed by independents at 100 days

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the Oval Office of the White House.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the Oval Office of the White House.Evan Vucci / AP file

WASHINGTON — As President Biden approaches 100 days in office, one of the secrets to his relatively strong numbers in the new NBC News poll is his standing with independents.

And these independents will be key to watch when we start looking ahead to 2022 and 2024, because they are the majority-makers in our polarized times.

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Right now, independents in the poll look more like Democratic respondents, and they’re responsible for his numbers being north of 50 percent almost across the board:

  • 53 percent of all Americans approve of Biden’s job, including 90 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents but just 9 percent of Republicans
  • 69 percent approve of his handling of the coronavirus, including 94 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents (!!!) and even 36 percent of Republicans.
  • 52 percent approve of Biden’s job when it comes to uniting the country, including 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents but just 15 percent of Republicans.
  • And 59 percent think Biden’s infrastructure plan is a good idea, including 87 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents but just 21 percent of Republicans.

That’s the good news for Biden in the poll. But here’s what happens when these independents join the other side:

  • 34 percent of all Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the gun issue, including 59 percent of Democrats, 36 percent of independents and just 6 percent of Republicans.
  • And just 33 percent approve of his handling of the border and immigration, including 60 percent of Democrats, 33 percent of independents and 5 percent of Republicans.

Bottom line: Biden gets to a majority coalition when you combine universal support from Democrats and majority-plus support from independents — pretty much what we saw play out in the 2020 presidential election.

But when you take away those independents?

That’s when the trouble begins.

More from the poll: 55 percent support a more active government

The poll shows that the other secret to Biden’s early success in these (almost) first 100 days has been the American public’s support for a more active government.

Per the poll, 55 percent of adults agree with the statement that the government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people, versus 41 percent who agree with the statement that the government is doing too many things that are better left to businesses and individuals.

That majority-plus support for doing more — backed by 82 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents — is consistent to what our poll found during Donald Trump’s four years in White House.

But it’s a reversal from the Obama Era, when the percentage of Americans in favor of government doing more was often below 50 percent.

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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

61 percent: The share of American adults who believe that the worst of the coronavirus is behind us, per the new NBC News poll.

25 percent: The share of voters who said the worst was behind us in October’s poll.

57 percent: The share of Americans in the same poll who say they’ve already been vaccinated.

19 percent: The share of Americans who say they won’t get a vaccine or will only get it if it’s required.

32,225,598: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 149,873 more than Friday morning.)

576,289: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,968 more than Friday morning.)

228,661,408: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

26.1 percent: The share of Americans who are fully vaccinated

3: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

Troy Carter wins Louisiana House runoff

On Saturday, Democrat Troy Carter defeated fellow Democrat Karen Carter Peterson, 55 percent to 45 percent, in the runoff to fill the congressional seat vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who left to join the Biden White House.

Richmond had endorsed Carter.

And as the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin observed, that Richmond endorsement ended up mattering more than the progressive outside groups that supported Carter Peterson.

All politics can still be local.

And the number of the week is … 70 percent

Don’t miss this week’s pod, when we took a look at how parents of school aged children view how their child’s school has handled the pandemic.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Don’t miss a timeline — from one of us — of all the major developments of Biden’s first 100 days.

Henry Gomez checks in with Pennsylvania voters as Biden approaches 100 days in office.

Gomez also reports that Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, is running for the U.S. Senate.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy avoided questions about his phone call with Trump on January 6.

Some Black Democrats are wary of the party’s push for a full federal overhaul of voting and redistricting laws.

House Republicans are meeting in Orlando this week to try to unify around an agenda ahead of 2022.

The Biden administration is promising more aid to India as the country continues to be gripped by record Covid deaths.

The White House is extending a pandemic eviction moratorium until June.