Public Opinion on Coronavirus and The Vote: Navigator Update

Wednesday, October 14th, 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 1,003 registered voters conducted October 8-12, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Americans are worried the pandemic is surging: the share who say “the worst is yet to come” in the pandemic and who support “more aggressive social distancing” are climbing back to the levels seen in July amid surging cases.
  • Coronavirus remains Americans’ top policy priority for the president and Congress to be focused on.
  • Three in five say Trump is “not doing enough” on the pandemic and say he is showing poor leadership and behaving irresponsibly.

Majority Continue to Say “Worst is Yet to Come” in Pandemic

More than half of Americans say the “worst is yet to come,” while just one in three say the “worst is over.”

  • Among independents, 61% say the “worst is yet to come” in the pandemic and 22% say the “worst is over.”

Majority More Concerned About Social Distancing Ending Too Soon Rather Than Going on Too Long

Three in five are more concerned social distancing will end too soon and prolong the pandemic while only three in ten are more concerned social distancing will go on too long and hurt the economy.

  • Even among Republicans, 40% say they are more concerned social distancing will end too soon and prolong the pandemic, while 51% say they are more concerned social distancing will go on too long.

Support for More Aggressive Social Distancing Is On the Rise

Nearly half say the country needs “more aggressive social distancing measures,” while just one in three say we are currently “doing the right thing,” and less than one in five say we should “relax social distancing measures.”

Americans Once Again See Cases in Their State Increasing

In the last week, the share who say the number of new cases is increasing in their state has grown 6 points and the share who say the number of new cases in their state is declining has dropped 5 points.

  • Among independents, the share who say the number of cases in their state is increasing has grown 14 points since last week (from 39% to 53%).

Americans Continue to Overwhelmingly Side With “Caution”

Two in three say they are more on the side of being cautious about reopening as opposed to only three in ten who say they are on the side of those who are pushing to reopen.

  • A majority of independents (64%) say they are generally on the side of being more cautious.

Vast – and Bipartisan – Majority Supports Mask Mandate

More than three in four support having a law requiring people wear masks in their state.

  • Such a law enjoys majority support from Democrats (92%), independents (70%), and Republicans (62%), with a 5-point increase in Republican support since August 3 (from 57% to 62%).

Pandemic Remains a Top Concern for Americans

A majority of Americans continue to choose the pandemic as a top issue for the President and Congress to focus on.

  • Jobs and the economy and health care also remain top issues for Americans.
  • One in six (15%) also continue to rate Supreme Court appointments as a top issue.

Coronavirus Dominates the Negative Conversation Around Trump This Week

The share who report hearing mostly negative or an equal mix of positive and negative things about Trump this week has reached 82%, compared to 79% the week before and 74% the week before that.

Those hearing negative things about Trump this week focus on his response to coronavirus and his behavior after contracting the virus.

Negative Views Persist of Trump’s Handling of Range of Issues

Trump’s approval ratings remain underwater on everything from the economy to handling the pandemic.

  • Among independents, Trump is just breaking even on the economy (46% approve/46% disapprove), and on the pandemic, is underwater by 25 points (34% approve/59% disapprove).

Three in Five Say Trump “Not Doing Enough” on Pandemic

The majority of Americans say that Trump is “not doing enough” on handling the pandemic, approaching the level who said the same mid-July during the surge in new cases that took place in the U.S. this summer.

  • On a separate question, 58% say that America is doing worse than most other countries in the world with our response to the coronavirus pandemic, including more than a third (35%) who say we are doing “much worse.”

Pandemic Tops List of Americans’ Greatest Concerns About Trump

The top two issues Americans have the most concerns about on how Trump is handling his job – his failed handling of the pandemic and irresponsible behavior – are two of the issues Americans are also hearing about most.

Trump’s Presidency: “Self-Absorbed,” “Chaotic,” & “Irresponsible”

The majority of Americans say that negative words, including self-absorbed, chaotic, irresponsible, and unprepared, apply to Donald Trump’s handling of the presidency while less than half say positive words apply.

  • Among independents, majorities say “self-absorbed” (60%)  and “chaotic” (64%) apply to Trump’s handling of the presidency.

Public Sees Poor Leadership in Trump’s Refusal to Take Precautions or Wear a Mask

Just a third see Trump as showing strength by not taking precautions like wearing a mask or strictly social distancing, while three in five see Joe Biden as a good leader for observing these precautions “like everyone should.”

Americans Say Biden Has Been Transparent About His Health, But Trump Has Not

Majorities say Trump and the White House have not been transparent enough about the president’s medical condition, and that Joe Biden has been transparent enough about his own medical condition since Trump’s diagnosis.

Joe Biden Trusted Much More Than Trump to Get Life in America “Back to Normal Again”

A majority trust Biden more to get life post-pandemic back to normal again, while only two in five trust Trump more.

  • Biden holds an 11-point advantage among independents on getting life back to normal (41% to 30%).

Americans Support Decision to Make Second Presidential Debate Virtual and Oppose Trump’s Withdrawal

Two in three support the decision by the Commission on Presidential Debates to host a virtual debate instead of an in-person debate following Trump’s positive coronavirus diagnosis, while a majority oppose his withdrawal as a result.