US President Joe Biden turns to Vice President Kamala Harris (C) and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (L) after addressing a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 28, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ANDREW HARNIK/AFP/Getty Images

Americans are feeling something weird and unfamiliar: optimism

One hundred days may not seem like long, but it can sure make a world of difference. It's been about that long since President Biden took office and during that time, it seems that more Americans have gotten the sense that the sun does in fact rise again. According to a poll conducted by ABC News/Ipsos, 64% of Americans surveyed are feeling optimistic about the direction they see the country going over the next 12 months. That's the highest recorded level of positivity about the country's direction since 2006.

Certainly, some of that newfound optimism has to do with relatively low expectations after four years of the Trump administration. But in recent months, the country does seem to have largely turned the corner on the coronavirus pandemic, with cases and deaths starting to decline and nearly one-third of the population fully vaccinated, which also may be enough to clear out some of those black clouds that seemed to be lingering overhead.

But what is perhaps most interesting about the poll is that it seems Biden has struck the right tone for a majority of Americans. Fifty-one percent of respondents said that Biden is doing the right amount of compromising with Republican leaders in Congress to tackle important issues. Meanwhile, 67% of those polled believed that the Republicans were doing too little to meet Biden in the middle.

This all seems to line up with polling conducted by Yahoo News/YouGov on Biden's first 100 days. The president had a 54% approval rating, with a plurality of respondents saying that Biden has actually exceeded their expectations. The poll found that 39% of people believe Biden has been better than expected, compared to 28% who said he's been worse than they imagined and 24% who believe his administration has been about what they thought it would be.

Overall, Biden actually has quite a bit of support for his agenda. According to the Yahoo/YouGov poll, his $2 trillion infrastructure package that places a major emphasis on addressing climate change has the support of 47% of Americans, while just 32% oppose it. His second major legislative proposal — a $1.8 trillion plan that seeks to extend subsidies to working families, offers paid family leave, and established universal pre-K — has 50% approval to just 30% opposition.

The ABC News/Ipsos poll doesn't dig into specific policies, but it did find that there is generally support for federal spending right now. A majority of Americans — 52% — said they would support more spending to help the economy even if it meant increased taxes, while 47% would rather keep the tax rates the same than spend.

The overall optimism among Americans may have to do with the general approval of Biden's policies and approach. But it may have as much to do with the fact that things feel, well, more normal. If you recall the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, it was chaos: In that period, Donald Trump signed a ban on travel from majority Muslim countries that left thousands of people detained at the border, blew up major trade agreements, nominated an extremely conservative judge to the Supreme Court, and introduced a tax cut that favored corporations and the ultra-wealthy.

Biden's first 100 days may be going well because of his policies and temperament. But it might be as simple as the fact they also happen to be the first 100 days without Trump.