Public Opinion on Coronavirus and The Vote: Navigator Update

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Welcome to NAVIGATOR – a project designed to better understand the American public’s views on issues of the day and help advocates, elected officials, and other interested parties understand the language, imagery, and messaging needed to make and win key policy arguments.

This release features findings from a national online survey of 1,011 registered voters conducted October 3-5, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • As coronavirus grows as a top concern, the public continues to give Trump negative marks on his pandemic response and many say it isn’t a surprise he contracted the disease.
  • Most Americans say Trump caught coronavirus because he was irresponsible, and many express concern that he is spreading it further.
  • Americans hold Trump responsible for the rising number of cases around the country.

Trump’s Job Approval Ratings Remain in the Negative

Consistent with our cumulative monthly data, Trump’s approval ratings remain underwater for him on issues ranging from the pandemic to protests, while he is breaking even on the economy this week.

  • Among independents, Trump is at net -29 on his handling of the pandemic (32% approve/61% disapprove).

Many Express Lack of Surprise at Trump Diagnosis

The vast majority (79%) continue to hear negative things about Trump this week, with most hearing about his handling of the pandemic and his own contraction of the virus. Most are not surprised he’s gotten coronavirus due to his refusal to wear a mask or abide by social distancing measures.

Majority Think Trump Got Coronavirus Due to Irresponsible Behavior

Nearly three in five think Trump caught coronavirus as a result of irresponsible behavior rather than as a result of factors beyond his control.

  • Even one in five Republicans (22%) think Trump caught coronavirus as a result of irresponsible behavior and another 22% are not sure.

Most Do Not Trust the President to Be Honest About His Medical Condition

A majority do not trust the president to tell the truth about his medical condition following his diagnosis with coronavirus, including more than two in three independents who do not trust him.

  • On a separate question, 54% of Americans say they do not trust the White House to be honest about the president’s medical condition, including 60% of independents.

Consistent Majority of Americans Hold Trump Responsible for Cases Going Up in a Number of States Around the Country

Nearly three in five continue to say they hold Trump responsible at least in part for cases going up around the country.

  • More than half of independents (56%) hold Trump responsible for cases going up in a number of states.

“Irresponsible”: Top Descriptor of Trump and His Administration’s Dismissal of Safety Precautions

Of those who say a range of criticisms of Donald Trump’s recent behavior each raise at least minor concerns, more than two in three say Trump’s failure to comply with basic safety precautions is “irresponsible.”

On Trump’s Diagnosis, Greatest Concerns Are Failing to Stop the Spread and Irresponsibly Spreading

Among those mixed on Trump*, the top concern is trump failing to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Most Troubling About Trump’s Diagnosis: Irresponsible Behavior and Spreading the Virus Further

Americans are most troubled by his irresponsible behavior in exposing others and failing to set the right example for the country amid the pandemic.

Trump Activities That Could Have Spread the Virus Are the Most Troubling Events Around Diagnosis

Americans find most troubling Trump’s attendance of a major rally while having symptoms, attending a fundraiser on the day he was diagnosed, and his refusal to wear a mask at the debate even when asked by medical staff.

  • Independents find his rally attendance (41%) and refusal to wear a mask at the debate (32%) most troubling.

Public Remains “Pro-Mask” and Trump is Still Seen as “Anti-Mask”

Nearly four in five say they are “pro-mask” while nearly the same share say that Trump is “anti-mask.”

  • The share who say Trump is “anti-mask” has increased 6 points since last week (from 64% September 28 to 70% today).

Pandemic Increasingly a Top Concern for Americans

While coronavirus has consistently been the top-ranking issue for Americans, there has been a 6-point increase in the share who say it is a top concern since last week.

  • Other issues that have risen in importance among Americans in the last week include jobs and the economy (up 5 points) and climate change and extreme weather (up 4 points).

Americans Most Concerned By Trump’s Handling of Pandemic; Hearing Least About ACA Repeal

Among those who do not strongly approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency, their biggest concern is Trump’s failed handling of the pandemic: Democrats and independents are also concerned by his refusal to condemn white supremacy while Republicans are concerned by him getting sick and his debate performance.

Americans See Biden’s Debate Performance Much More Positively Than Trump’s

Nearly two in three say they have a negative impression of Trump’s recent debate performance, including more than half who say they have a “very negative” impression, while a majority give Biden positive marks.

  • More independents view Trump’s performance negatively (65% negative) than Biden’s (56%), though a majority view each negatively.

“Unpresidential” and “Rude” Top Negative Descriptors of Trump’s Debate Performance

Among those who view Trump’s performance at the recent debate negatively, nearly half say that his performance was “unpresidential” and “rude.”

Entering Vice Presidential Debate, More Have Favorable Views of Kamala Harris Than Mike Pence

Nearly half view Kamala Harris favorably while the same share view Mike Pence unfavorably, and only two in five have a favorable view of the vice president.

  • Donald Trump is 11-points underwater on favorability (44% favorable/55% unfavorable) while Joe Biden is 9 points above water (53% favorable/44% unfavorable).