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 1,002 registered voters conducted July 9-14, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Three in five disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic: 42% now know someone who has been infected.
  • As new cases surge, a growing majority says the worst is yet to come and that we need more aggressive social distancing.
  • The public feels Trump is not doing enough to respond to the pandemic and holds him responsible for the recent surge in cases.

Trump’s Pandemic Approval Sinks to New Low

More than three in five disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with net approval down 35 points since the beginning of our tracking on March 23.

  • Half (51%) of Americans “strongly disapprove” of his handling.
  • One in five (21%) Republicans disapprove of the job Trump is doing handling the coronavirus pandemic.

More Than Two in Five Know Someone Who Has Been Infected with Coronavirus

42% of Americans now know someone who has been infected with coronavirus, almost five times the percentage who knew someone infected on our first day of tracking on March 23.

  • Two months ago on May 15, while 44% of Northeasterners knew someone infected, only 32% of Midwesterners, 34% of Southerners, and 19% of Westerners did. Now, there is less regional differentiation: 46% of Northeasterners, 45% of Midwesterners, 43% of Southerners, and 34% of Westerners know someone.

Share Who Think Worst is Yet to Come in Pandemic Hits Highest Level in Three Months

The highest number of Americans in our tracking since April 13 now think that the “worst is yet to come” in the pandemic. Only one in five now believe that the “worst is over.”

  • Even among Republicans, a plurality (43%) think the “worst is yet to come” (39% think the “worst is over”).

Support Significantly Shifts Back in Favor of More Aggressive Social Distancing

Just a month ago on June 15, a plurality said America was doing the right thing on social distancing – now, almost three in five say that we need more aggressive social distancing measures.

  • Among 2016 Trump voters, 36% say we need more aggressive social distancing measures.

Majority Support Reversing Reopening, Especially in High Infection States

While nearly three in five Americans overall think their state should reverse its reopening plans and put back in place more restrictions, this number is even higher in high infection states.

  • Among Midwesterners (55% should reverse reopening), Southerners (61%), and Westerners (64%), there is a push to reverse reopening in their state, while only 42% of Northeasterners say the same.

Majority Remain Concerned Social Distancing Will End Too Soon

Since June 8, there has been an 8-point increase in the share who are concerned social distancing will end too soon and prolong the pandemic, while there has been a 5-point decline in the share who say it will go on too long.

  • Among independents, 65% remain more concerned that social distancing will end too soon and prolong the pandemic, while only 25% are more concerned it will go on too long.

Public Increasingly Cautious & Pro-Mask Over Last Month

Since June 8, the shares who say they are on the cautious side of reopening and are pro-mask have each increased – including nearly a majority of Republicans on each measure.

Top Worries: Others Ignoring Safety Precautions, Nursing Homes

More than half of Americans are “very worried” about others not following safety precautions, the vulnerability of nursing homes, and schools reopening too quickly and putting people at risk.

  • Worries about others not following safety precautions like wearing masks are split by party: while 69% of Republicans are worried, 83% of independents and 95% of Democrats are worried.

New High in Share Saying Trump’s Pandemic Response is “Not Doing Enough”

The number of Americans who say Trump is “not doing enough” on the pandemic has hit a record high in our tracking at 61%.

  • Since June 8 among 2016 Trump voters, there has been a 13-point increase in the share who think that Trump and his administration are not doing enough (from 14% to 27%).

Majority Believe American Response Worse Than Other Countries, Hold Trump Responsible for New Surge

Nearly two-thirds of Americans feel the U.S. response to coronavirus is worse than in other countries and that Trump has at least some responsibility for the cases going up in a number of states.

  • Among Republicans, the share who say America’s response has been better than in other countries has dropped 9 points since June 30, and the share who say Trump bears a lot/some responsibility grown 7 points.

Three in Five Say Trump’s Mistakes Worsened Crisis

More than half of Americans think Trump made mistakes in his handling of the outbreak that made things worse than they should have been.

  • Among people of color, 77% say that Trump has made mistakes in his handling of the outbreak that made it worse than it needed to be.

Growing Number Say Trump Ignoring Advice, Pushing Too Aggressively to Reopen

Just a third say Trump is making the right call by leaving reopening to the states but pushing states to reopen their economies and get people back to work.

  • Among independents, 67% say Trump is ignoring the advice of medical experts by moving to reopen the country too aggressively.

Top Trump Concerns: Ignoring Experts, Downplaying Threat, Failure to Prepare

The top concerns about Trump’s handling of the pandemic include his ignoring of medical experts, downplaying the threat and promising the virus will go away, and ignoring warnings and failing to prepare for the pandemic.

  • Among independents, top concerns are his failure to prepare and his ignoring of experts.