Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Daily

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 is a dynamic time, and as a result, Navigator will transition to a daily tracking poll on the coronavirus crisis. For the foreseeable future, we will be tracking public opinion every weekday, releasing on a Tuesday-Saturday schedule. In addition, future editions will provide more messaging guidance to the progressive community. 

This edition of our daily tracking release features findings from a national online survey of 997 registered voters conducted March 31-April 3, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Trump’s early missteps remain problematic to the public and concern over them is only growing.
  • Lack of preparedness remains the biggest concern for Americans.
  • Despite a popular narrative, Trump has not experienced a sustained approval bump, especially in comparison to other Governors and leaders.

Trump Voters Increasingly Dissatisfied With Early Response

40% of 2016 Trump voters say the president did not take coronavirus seriously enough early in the crisis, up 17 points since early last week.

  • 66% of independents and 66% of Americans overall say the same, a 10-point increase from last week.
  • 53% of Trump voters say Trump got it “about right” initially, down 7 points. 1% say he overreacted.

“Downplaying” When He Should Have Been Preparing

There’s been a 7-point increase since March 23rd in the percentage of Americans saying they are seriously  concerned that Trump downplayed the threat of the coronavirus early on.

  • The majority of white non-college Americans, a usually supportive group, say they are seriously concerned that Trump downplayed the threat of coronavirus early on.

Trump Failed to Take Action at a Critical Stage

Six in ten Americans say Trump’s failure to act early raises serious concerns, with people of color especially concerned about Trump’s early inaction.

  • Even among white Americans with no 4-year degree, half (48%) worry the president did not act in time.
  • Most independents (61%) also say they are seriously concerned about Trump’s early inaction.

Most Call President Trump “Unprepared”

A clear majority of Americans say that “unprepared” applies to Trump’s coronavirus response.

  • The majority of white non-college Americans (53%) say that “unprepared” applies to Trump’s coronavirus response and people of color are even more likely to agree.
  • While 61% say Trump is unprepared, 52% say he is “chaotic” and “erratic,” and 51% say he is “irresponsible.”

Declining Number Say Trump is “Honest”

The share of Americans who say “Honest” does not apply to Trump’s coronavirus response has grown by 9 points.

  • Among independents, the share who feel “honest” does not apply to the president has gone from 37% a week ago to 58% today.

Public Sees Early Missteps at Root of Current Crisis

A plurality of Americans (47%) are more concerned that Trump was unprepared and made early mistakes than they are about the lack of action right now (20%).

  • Half of independents (50%) are more concerned that Trump was unprepared and made early mistakes, compared to 15% who are more concerned that he isn’t taking proper actions now.

The “Trump Bump” Was Small – and Has Faded

Trump’s overall approval now stands at 45%, just two points above his average approval rating in Navigator’s tracking pre-coronavirus.

  • This pales in comparison to approval gains seen for other leaders, such as NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (+27 approval gain in a recent Siena poll) and WI Governor Tony Evers (+14 according to the Marquette Law Poll).
  • Leaders in Italy, the UK, and elsewhere around the world have also seen much larger bumps than Trump.

Trump Rating on Coronavirus Handling at -2

Consistent with the last week of updates, Americans are nearly evenly divided on how Trump is handling the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Intensity of disapproval continued to increase in today’s update (26% strongly approve; 35% strongly disapprove).
  • Among independents, Trump is now underwater by 10 points (37% approve/47% disapprove), a net shift of 27 points since our March 30th update (53% approve/36% disapprove).