Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Update

Wednesday, July 22, 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 1,015 registered voters conducted July 16-20, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Three in four now say the country is “off on the wrong track.”
  • Americans increasingly identify as pro-mask and say those who don’t wear one are “irresponsible” and “selfish.”
  • The public thinks Trump should have been wearing a mask a long time ago and trusts Dr. Fauci over Trump to handle decisions on reopening – including schools.

Three in Four Now Say Country “Off on the Wrong Track”

Since the beginning of our tracking on March 23, there has been an 18-point increase in the share who say the country is “off on the wrong track.”

  • The majority of Republicans (52%) now say the country is “off on the wrong track,” while only 38% say it’s headed in the “right direction.” Two months ago, Republicans were positive on this question (59% “right direction,” 34% “wrong track”).

Trump Approval Ratings Remain at Low Point

Three in five Americans now disapprove of Trump’s handling of his job as president – a record high in Navigator dating back to April 2018 – while approval of his handling of the pandemic has declined a net -10 points in the past month.

  • Among independents, Trump’s approval on handling the pandemic is at net -50; on June 22, he was at -33 among independents on his handling of the pandemic.

Coronavirus and Trump’s Push to Reopen Schools Continue to Dominate Negative Conversation Around Him

The vast majority of Americans (83%) continue to hear at least some negative things about President Trump, which are mostly focused on the pandemic and his push to reopen schools in the fall, much like last week.

Share Who Think “Worst is Yet to Come” Continues to Rise

Since June 8, the share who say the “worst is yet to come” in the pandemic has grown by 22 points, while less than one in five now say that the “worst is over.”

  • Since June 8, the share who think the “worst is yet to come” has grown by 20 points among Republicans, from 25% to 45%, and by 25 points among independents, from 41% to 66%.

Two in Three Concerned Social Distancing Will End Too Soon

Since June 8, there has been an 11-point increase in the share who are more concerned social distancing will end too soon rather than go on too long.

  • On a separate question, 54% say that we need more aggressive social distancing measures, while only 11% say we should relax social distancing measures.

Trump Seen as Anti-Mask and Out of Step with Public on Masks

More than four in five say they are pro-mask – while more than two in three identify the president as “anti-mask.”

  • The share who say they are pro-mask has grown 8 points since a month ago, from 73% June 22 to 81% today.
  • On a separate question, 63% say they wear a mask every time they leave their home.

Majority Say Trump Should Wear Mask More & Should Have Worn One Earlier

While a vast majority say that Trump should wear a mask in public more often, after seeing a photo of him recently wearing one, nearly two in three say that he “was far too late in wearing a mask.”

Three in Four Say People Without Masks Should Be Called Out, Say It’s Irresponsible, Selfish

The vast majority say that people who don’t wear masks in public places are putting others at risk and deserve to be called out, and top descriptors that emerge for not wearing masks include “irresponsible,” selfish,” and “dangerous.”

Fauci Well-Liked and Well-Known, More Trusted to Decide How to Reopen Than Trump

Dr. Fauci has become a household name and remains one of America’s most popular public figures, as Americans trust him more to decide when and how to reopen the country than Trump.

  • The share familiar with Fauci has grown from 66% on April 1 to 85% today.

Majority Say Trump Should Pay More Attention to Fauci, Worry He’s Rejecting Fauci’s Advice on Reopening

Nearly three in four say that Trump should be listening to Dr. Fauci’s advice on reopening the country, while two in five say they are most worried Trump is rejecting Fauci’s advice on reopening the country safely.

Disapproval Growing on Trump’s Push to Reopen Schools

Three in five disapprove of how the president is handling the issue, with net approval down 6 points since July 13.

  • Among those living in suburban areas, net approval for Trump’s handling of reopening schools is down 11 points since last week (from net -22 to -33)

Majority Continue to Oppose Reopening Schools

Support for reopening K-12 schools at the end of the summer continues to decline since June 1, with net support now having shifted 29 points (from +14 to -15).

  • Among parents, there has been a net shift of 41 points since June 1, from +27 to -14.

Top Concerns on Trump Handling of Pandemic: Ignoring Experts, Downplaying Threat

Americans are most concerned by Trump’s ignoring of medical experts, downplaying the threat, and failing to prepare for the pandemic.

  • Among 2016 Trump voters, a quarter (25%) are most concerned by his ignoring of experts.