Joe Biden's Unity Pledge Is Failing. It Never Had a Chance

President Joe Biden's pledge to unite the U.S. looks an increasingly distant prospect. People are even divided on the commander-in-chief's divisiveness.

Deep cultural and political splits continue to be evident across the nation and in Washington, with how to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic a particular flashpoint at the moment in the wake of Biden's vaccine mandates.

Amid this partisan outlook, an I&I/TIPP poll asked respondents if Biden is living up to his promise to unify the country—or stoking partisanship and division.

A plurality, 40 percent, thought the latter. But nearly an equal amount, 37 percent, said Biden is living up to his unity pledge. The polling, conducted September 29 to October 2 among 1,038 adults, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Previous polls similarly showed a nation divided despite Biden's dream of bringing Americans together; a dream that was perhaps always distant. The latest results add to the evidence that the country is unlikely to unite any time soon.

"Biden's quest for national unity never really had any chance of working," David Andersen, associate professor in U.S. politics at Durham University, told Newsweek.

"The country is deeply divided and no single leader is going to be able to bring it together at this point. The problem is that the drivers of this polarization are beyond the president's influence.

"The divisions in America are not really over leadership style or policy preference anymore, which are things a president could conceivably address. They may have started that way 30 or 40 years ago but now the deep polarization in America is driven by people acting out of their own personal interests."

Andersen suggested cable news anchors have more control over the divide than Biden does—and continue to push the gap wider and wider for their own competing agendas.

"No political actor can sweep in and stop that. In reality the leaders of the two parties, and in particular the GOP, are now media personalities who hold no political power but do heavily influence public opinion," Andersen said.

While Biden might have overestimated his power to unite, the inability to do so is not necessarily any fault of his own. The task is probably beyond any president.

"Any notion that Biden would bring unity to the US, especially in such a short timeframe, was unrealistic from the outset," Thomas Gift, founding director of of University College London's Centre on U.S. Politics, told Newsweek.

"That's less an indictment of Biden's leadership skills, and more a function of polarization in America being so deeply embedded into the country's social fabric.

"Democrats and Republicans don't just vote differently. They reside in different zip codes, have different hobbies, watch different news, espouse different values—pursue different lives."

Any hope of bridging the divide may also take much longer than some would wish: "Even the best-intentioned efforts to curb these divides is beyond the purview of one leader, and will take years—if not much longer—to materialize."

But this polarization may have repercussions for Biden much sooner.

Negative opinions of him coincide with similar views towards the Democratic Party, which only narrowly controls Congress and faces an uphill battle to retain majorities in both the House and Senate at the 2022 midterms.

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.

joe biden speaks from white house october
President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus October 14, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Polling has shown the nation divided, despite his pledges for unity. Drew Angerer/Getty Images