Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Update

Wednesday, June 10, 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 1,608 registered voters conducted June 4-8, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • There is overwhelming support for the protests, while the police response is viewed negatively.
  • The public sees the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor as part of a broader problem with police brutality – but has optimism the protests will be effective.
  • By a wide margin, Americans disapprove of Trump’s response to the protests following the death of George Floyd.

More Than Two in Three Support Protests 

More than two thirds of Americans approve of the protests that have followed the death of George Floyd against police treatment of African Americans.

  • 69% of independents support these protests, as do 64% of white Americans.
  • This comes as 7% of Americans report having participated personally in a protest since Floyd’s death.

Black Lives Matter and the Police Have Similar Favorability Ratings

The same share of Americans are favorable towards Black Lives Matter and the police, as around a quarter (27%) are favorable to both.

  • More than half of white Americans (53%) are favorable toward the Black Lives Matter movement, while only 28% of African Americans are favorable toward the police.

Half Disapprove of Police Response, Say Police and Outsiders Instigating Violence 

Despite high approval ratings for police overall, more than half disapprove of how they have responded to the recent protests, and nearly half say protests have been peaceful except for police and outsiders instigating violence.

Most Have Seen Videos of Protests & Say Videos Made Them More Sympathetic to Protesters Than Police

Among the more than nine in ten Americans who say they have seen videos of the protests and the police response to them, nearly half say the videos have made them more sympathetic to protesters.

Outsiders and White Supremacists Seen as Major Contributors to Violence

More than half feel outsiders to protests and white supremacists are contributing “a lot” to the violence at protests.

  • White Americans are the least likely to think police are contributing to violence at protests (53%) and are the most likely to think that protesters (62%) are contributing a lot to violence.

Majority See Floyd, Arbery, and Taylor Deaths as Part of Broader Problem of Racism and Police Brutality

At least half of Americans see the deaths of George Floyd, AhmaudArbery, and Breonna Taylor as signs of broader problems concerning racism and police brutality in America – fewer are aware of the Christian Cooper incident.

  • More than four in five African Americans see the death of George Floyd as a part of a broader problem, as do 78% of Hispanics and 71% of white Americans.

Some Optimism Exists that Protests Will Drive Change

Nearly three in five Americans see the recent incidents involving police brutality and protests as effective in making meaningful change around police treatment of African Americans, though only one in six say “very effective.”

  • Democrats (72%) and African Americans (63%) are the most likely to believe that recent incidents and protests will make meaningful change in the way police treat African Americans.

Trump Approval Underwater – Especially on Response to Protests Following George Floyd’s Death

Trump’s approval ratings on his job overall, the issue of health care, and the pandemic remain underwater – but no measure is as underwater for Trump as his handling of recent protests, at a net -26.

  • Even among Republicans, his net approval on handling the protests (68% approve/21% disapprove) is 26 points lower than his overall job approval (86% approve/13% disapprove).

Younger, Black, and Hispanic Americans Strongly Disapprove of Trump’s Protest Response

While nearly three in five Americans disapprove of Trump’s response to recent protests, disapproval is even higher among young people, Black Americans, and Hispanics.

Majority Disapprove of Trump’s Response to Floyd’s Death, Especially the Use of Tear Gas

Nearly two thirds (65%) of Americans disapprove of Trump using tear gas to clear protesters so he could visit St. John’s Church, while majorities disapprove of his military use (53%) and and his public statements (54%).

  • Among Republicans, 43% approve of his use of tear gas and 34% disapprove.

Negative Conversation on Trump Focused on Response to Protesters, Church Photo Op, Military Use

Across party lines, those who say they have recently heard negative things about Trump cite tear-gassing protesters for a photo opportunity, his use of the military against protesters, and protests generally.

  • Unlike Democrats and independents, however, a top word referenced by Republicans is “media” – frequently referencing that the mainstream media is biased in its coverage of Trump.