Latin Community Lauds Biden’s COVID Response But Gives Lower Marks for His Immigration Policies


President Joe Biden’s term is off to a very eventful start, with aggressive national efforts underway to combat COVID-19, declining but still high levels of unemployment, an increasingly volatile geopolitical environment, an influx of immigrants at our Southern border, social tensions, and a divided country.

In order to ascertain how the Latin community feels about the start of Biden’s presidency, 174 of my classmates, teachers and acquaintances were asked to rate Biden’s presidency; 55 people responded, resulting in a 32% response rate. Of those who responded, 27% are faculty. Participants were asked to rate whether they approve of Biden’s decisions, and to rank Biden’s performance on six issues on a scale from 1 (strongly disapprove) to 9 (strongly approve). The survey was completely anonymous because, as previously reported in The Forum, certain members of the Latin community may feel uncomfortable sharing their political opinions publicly.

When evaluating President Biden’s overall binary approval, survey participants were presented with the following question: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president?” Of the 55 respondents, 48 chose “Approve,” suggesting that Biden’s presidential approval rating within the Latin community is 87.3%. At the time of study, in the week of April 14, 2021, Biden’s FiveThirtyEight national presidential approval rating hovered around 53% (it increased from 52.5% to 53.3% over the course of the week). Thus, the Latin community exhibits an approval rating more than 34 percentage points above the national average. The lowest plausible value within the poll’s margin of error is still 25 points above the national average. The presidential approval rating among Latin students is 79%, while 100% of the 15 participating faculty approve of Biden’s presidency.

While a binary approval rating reveals the percentage of the community that approves of Biden’s presidency, a scaled approval rating reveals how strongly the community approves of Biden’s presidency. On a scale from 1 (strongly disapprove) to 9 (strongly approve), the average scaled approval rating among the Latin community is 6.7, which is relatively low for an 87.3% binary approval rating. The scaled approval rating suggests that while most members of the Latin community approve of Biden’s presidency, they are not, on average, ecstatic about it.

Since almost three quarters of Cook County voted for Biden, it was expected that the Latin community would have a more favorable opinion of the president relative to the general public. Further, it was expected that there would be selection bias in terms of who chose to participate in the optional survey. Additionally, results of the overall approval rating do not discern among those within the Latin community who disapprove of Biden’s presidency because they believe Biden is too left-wing or too right-wing. By focusing on specific policies, as opposed to the overall approval rating, certain inherent biases can be mitigated and deeper insights into how the Latin community feels about the start of Biden’s presidency can be learned.

Recent polls, including a NPR/Marist poll and an ABC News/Ipsos poll, reveal that regardless of political party affiliation, Biden’s approval is higher in regards to his COVID policies, and lower in regards to his immigration policies. The Latin community appears to feel similarly.

When looking at averages across the Latin poll, approval of Biden’s COVID policies is 7.73, while approval of Biden’s immigration policies fall just below neutral, with a mean of 4.95. Freshman Kaya Bhandari pinpointed Biden’s COVID-related achievements, saying, “He’s done well with the vaccines.” This sentiment rings true for many, as Biden originally planned to administer 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days; Biden surpassed twice his original goal in under 100 days.

As for Biden’s relatively low approval rating regarding immigration reform, one survey participant explained, “Biden has been put into a terrible position with the massive influx of migrants from Latin America who wish to enter the United States. Although there is much improvement to be made in how migrants are housed and their individual cases handled, his administration has been left with a broken system implemented by Trump.”

In regards to other specific policies, the Latin community demonstrates modest approval. Foreign policies have a mean approval rating of 6.03 and economic policies have a mean approval rating of 6.56. Social justice initiatives and unity are tied with average approval ratings of 6.40; however, social justice policies have a median or 6.0 while unity has a median of 7.0. These averages show a soft approval, since they are just above the neutral rating of 5.0 but are not close to the “strongly approve” rating of 9.0.

Regarding social justice initiatives, one survey participant noted, “[Biden’s] better than the last guy—less polarizing!—though it’s interesting to consider to what extent he and [Vice President Kamala] Harris sincerely care about social justice or are simply capitalizing off of certain terminologies that they reference without actively practicing. If we paper over our problems, it may lead to as much division in the long run as Trump created.”

While it is interesting to look at average approval ratings of specific policies in their own right, given the inherent political bias in the Latin community, it is important to compare specific averages against the average general approval rating of the surveyed population. This information can be seen in the row “Avg. Specific Performance minus Avg. General Performance” in the results table. In this row, the average general approval rating of 6.67 is subtracted from the approval rating of each specific policy to control for the bias in the population. Similar to the results in the NPR/Marist poll, within the Latin community the average approval of Biden’s COVID policies is stronger than his general approval rating, while the average approval of Biden’s immigration policies is weaker than his general approval rating.

Specifically, the Latin community’s average approval of Biden’s COVID policies, 7.73, is 1.06 points higher than his average general approval rating of 6.67, while the Latin community’s average approval of Biden’s immigration policies, 4.95, is 1.72 points below his average general approval rating of 6.67. Also similar to the NPR/Marist poll, within the Latin community the average approval of Biden’s economic policies is similar to his general performance rating. Historically, economic performance is closely related to a president’s overall approval rating, so this finding is not unexpected. Approval of Biden’s foreign policies, social justice initiatives and unity policies appear on par with Biden’s general approval ratings.

Ninth grader Ethan Weiss summed up the Latin community’s feeling about the beginning of Biden’s presidency. “The Biden administration has exceeded my expectations so far. I think that they’ve set their sights high on enacting progressive policy and have followed up well thus far.”