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

  • A majority say Trump is distracted by less important issues rather than focusing on the things a president should be dealing with.
  • Trump is losing the debate on culture war issues like the Confederate flag and the renaming of sports teams, and the public does not think a majority of Americans side with him.
  • More than three in five say Trump should stop holding campaign rallies and think they model bad behavior.

Majority Say Trump is Distracted By “Less Important Issues”

More than half of Americans think Trump is distracted by “less important issues” instead of being more focused on important issues that a president should be dealing with.
• Even among 2016 Trump voters, more than one in five (22%) say that he is more distracted by “less important issues” rather than focused on important ones.

Tweeting, Criticizing Sports Franchises, and NASCAR Are Seen as Distractions, Not Important Presidential Issues

A majority find a range of issues that Trump has recently spoken out about, including tweeting about cable news ratings, criticizing sports teams, criticizing NASCAR for banning Confederate flags, and others to be distractions.

Below is a list of issues that President Trump has spoken out about recently. For each one, please indicate whether you think it is an important issue that the president should be dealing with right now, or a distraction from more important issues.

Public Does Not Believe Majority of Americans Agree With Trump on Issues Like the Confederate Flag and Team Names

A majority believe that most Americans do not agree with Trump on his positions on issues like the Confederate flag or sports teams changing their names.

  • Republicans who watch Fox News are in part driving the share who say they believe a majority agree with the
    president: 64% believe most Americans agree with him on these issues.

Trump Losing the Culture War Debate as Few Agree He is “Standing Up for American Culture”

Majorities see Trump’s focusing on issues like protecting the Confederate flag as both a way to divide Americans and excite his political base, and as a tool to distract from his mishandling of the pandemic and recent protests.

Top Concern Over Trump’s Attempts to Change the Subject: Not Focusing Enough on Pandemic, Economy

The biggest concerns about Trump focusing on things like the Confederate flag are that he is not focused on important issues like the pandemic and the economy and that he seeks to divide Americans instead of uniting them.

  • Among people of color, 40% say their biggest concern is that Trump is too focused on these issues instead of things like the pandemic.

Nearly Half “Strongly” Feel Trump Should Stop Holding Rallies and Campaign Events

While just a third say Trump should continue to hold his campaign rallies, three in five think he should stop and almost half say that they feel “strongly” that he should stop.

  • Republicans who watch Fox News are one of the only groups with a majority supporting Trump continuing to hold rallies: 73% say he should continue and 23% say he should stop.

Trump Holding Rallies Seen as Modeling Bad Behavior,
Contributing to Surge

Among those who do not strongly support Trump continuing to hold campaign rallies, their top concerns are his modeling of bad behavior about public gatherings and contributing to new case surges.

  • Even among 2016 Trump voters who do not strongly support Trump continuing to hold rallies (66% of all 2016
    Trump voters), 40% say it models bad behavior about large public gatherings.

Three in Five More Disappointed than Hopeful on Trump

A majority say they are disappointed by Trump, while only a third are hopeful when it comes to the president.

  • One in five (19%) Republicans are more disappointed by the president than they are hopeful. Likewise, nearly half (49%) of white non-college Americans say they are more disappointed than hopeful.

Trump’s Coronavirus Response: Self-Absorbed, Chaotic

At least half of Americans say that negative words, including self-absorbed, chaotic, and unprepared apply to Donald Trump’s handling of his job as president, while only four in ten – or fewer – say positive words apply.

  • More than four in five (82%) independents believe that “self-absorbed” applies to Trump’s job handling.

Support for Protests Following the Death of George Floyd Remains Resilient

Since the start of protests in early June following the death of George Floyd, more than three in five continue to support them.

  • This comes as Trump remains underwater by -27 on the issue of handling the protests (33% approve/60% disapprove).