Will the Real Secretary Please Stand Up? What Voters Know (and Don’t Know) About Biden’s Cabinet

“If the campaign and administration so choose, President Biden has a prime opportunity to deploy Cabinet officials as spokespeople for his administration and develop their public profiles as surrogates,” said Blueprint lead pollster Evan Roth Smith.

June 25, 2024

As part of a recent poll, Blueprint asked respondents how much they knew about President Biden’s Cabinet. Specifically, we presented respondents with a list of select Cabinet and Cabinet-level officials and asked them two questions: whether they had heard of the official and whether they had a favorable or unfavorable view of the official. While most Cabinet members have negative net favorability ratings, very low name recognition means that most Cabinet officials are a blank slate in the eyes of the public. 

“Just three Cabinet members are known to a majority of voters—Pete Buttigieg, Merrick Garland, and Antony Blinken,” Blueprint lead pollster Evan Roth Smith said. “Even senior figures like Janet Yellen, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Lloyd Austin are low-profile considering their role, while some individuals who are widely known in political circles, such as Lina Khan, Neera Tanden, and Jeff Zients are nearly total unknowns to voters. If the campaign and administration so choose, President Biden has a prime opportunity to deploy Cabinet officials as spokespeople for his administration and develop their public profiles as surrogates.”

Most Cabinet officials have very low name recognition

A large majority of voters have yet to hear about most of the Cabinet members tested in the survey. 

The notable exceptions are Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (73% had heard of him), Attorney General Merrick Garland (60% had heard of him), Secretary of State Antony Blinken (59% had heard of him), and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (53% had heard of her). Just under half of respondents (48%) had heard of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. 

Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, Garland’s role in recent high-profile DOJ cases, Blinken’s involvement in the White House’s Ukraine and Israel-Palestine policy, and Mayorkas’ recent impeachment by House Republicans likely explain their unusually high name recognition scores. 

For all five of these officials, name recognition is roughly even across partisan and racial lines, though younger voters generally are less aware of them than older ones. There was also an interesting gender gap: a higher share of male respondents than female respondents had heard of all five officials.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, views of more highly recognized officials were skewed by party affiliation: a large majority of Republicans held strongly unfavorable views of Blinken, Buttigieg, and Mayorkas. Most Republicans (53%) held strongly unfavorable views of Garland, and a plurality (47%) held strongly unfavorable views of Yellen. Democrats and independent voters were more balanced in their assessments of all five highly-recognized Cabinet officials, with majorities saying that they had not heard of the officials or did not have an opinion of them. 

Low Name Recognition Provides Room for Favorability to Grow

On net favorability, most Cabinet members are underwater. Just one, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, has a non-negative net favorability rating (0). Most of the officials we tested are underwater by anywhere from low to high single digits; the notable outlier is DHS Secretary Mayorkas, who has a net favorability of -16. In his case, the numbers are driven by a -63 net favorability rating among Republican voters.

However, these negative net favorability numbers only reveal part of the picture; for the majority of Cabinet members, large majorities of voters say that they have not heard of them, and substantial numbers of voters who have heard of them say they do not know enough about them to have an opinion.


Alyssa Cass

Evan Roth Smith

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Blueprint surveyed an online sample of 1,006 voters on June 1 and June 2. The survey was conducted in English, and its margin of error is ±7.1 percentage points. Full toplines can be found here and crosstabs are available upon request.