Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Update

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 1,009 registered voters conducted June 11-15, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Americans want to see significant and serious change in how the police operate.
  • There is overwhelming support for a range of proposals to address the issue of police brutality.
  • The share of Americans who describe Trump as “self-absorbed” has risen to a new high, while the share who describe him as “compassionate” is tied with an all-time low.

Public Wants to See Big Change in the Way the Police Operate

Nearly three in four say we need to change the way police operate.

  • On a separate question, 71% say we need to reduce the influence of the police and hold them more accountable, while only 8% say we need to strengthen the police and give them more power.

Problems with Police Seen as More than Just “Bad Apples”

By a 19-point margin, a majority agree that significant and serious changes to policing are needed (56%) compared to just 37% who think major reform is not necessary because of a “few bad apples” among police officers.

  • Among African Americans, more than four in five (82%) agree we need serious changes in policing, as do a majority (51%) of whites.

Public Supports Wide Range of Policing Changes

Each in a list of ten proposals on police brutality receives support from more than two thirds. Some, such as ending racial profiling, banning chokeholds, and making lynching a federal crime, have near-unanimous support.

Broad Support for Democrats’ “Justice in Policing Act”

Nearly three in four support the “Justice in Policing Act,” including a majority of Republicans.

  • On a separate question, Democrats in Congress have an advantage in trust over Trump to handle relations between police and the Black community (+22) and issues regarding the role of police in American life (+9).

Trump Far Behind Predecessors Bush and Obama in Popularity

While former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama enjoy favorable ratings from at least three in five Americans, nearly the same share are unfavorable towards Trump.

  • Compared to the other two presidents, Obama has much higher ratings of “very favorable”: 44% are “very favorable” to the former president, while 17% are very favorable towards Bush and 24% towards Trump.

Republican Defections Support Idea Trump is Failing as a Leader

A majority say Trump is failing as a leader if Republicans like Colin Powell and Lisa Murkowski cannot support him.

  • Among Republicans, one in five (19%) say that Trump is failing as a leader if people in his own party cannot support him.

Public Does Not Believe Economy is in a Comeback

Roughly half say the economy is already in a recession and that the economy is getting worse.

  • Even among Republicans, 35% say that economy is already in a recession and 27% say it is getting worse.
  • On a separate question, 83% say they are worried about the economy falling into a recession.

Trump as President: Self-Absorbed, Uncompassionate

The majority of Americans say that negative phrases, including self-absorbed, chaotic, unprepared, out of control, and irresponsible apply to Trump’s handling of his job as president, while less than half say positive words apply.

  • The majority of independents (51%) and the public overall (54%) say that “self-absorbed” very much applies to Trump’s response.