Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Update

Friday, May 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 1,011 registered voters conducted May 15-May 18, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • A “second wave” of the pandemic and recession remain top worries for Americans, with the vulnerability of nursing homes to coronavirus also ranking high.
  • The vast majority of Americans approve of relief bills, though there is growing concern that they favor the wealthy.
  • Americans support the HEROES Act and disapprove of Republican holding it up in the Senate.

Trump’s Approval on Health Care Ties Record Low

Only 38% of Americans approve of how Trump is handling the issue of health care.

  • There’s now been a net decline of 15 points in Trump’s handling since March 23rd (from -2 to -17).
  • Among independents, only 30% approve of the job he’s doing handling health care.

Second Wave, Recession, and Nursing Homes Top Worries

A “second wave” and a recession consistently rank as top worries for Americans – and a new question about the vulnerability of Americans in nursing homes rises to the top as well.

  • In a separate question, more than half (52%) of Americans think that Trump is mostly or somewhat responsible for the disproportionate number of coronavirus-related deaths coming from nursing home workers/residents.

Personal and Public Health Remain Bigger Concern

Americans remain more concerned about their family’s health than their financial situation, and the impact of coronavirus on public health than the economy as a whole.

  • Even among Republicans, 62% are more concerned about their family’s health and well-being than their financial situations, and 39% are more concerned about the impact of coronavirus on national health.

Many People Consider Themselves Vulnerable to Virus

Nearly half of Americans consider themselves vulnerable to the virus, and the older someone is, the more likely they are to self-identify as being “vulnerable” to coronavirus.

  • Perceived vulnerability to coronavirus is similar across different races: 48% of whites, 45% of African Americans, and 45% of Hispanics say they are vulnerable.

Impacts of the Pandemic are Widespread

The majority of Americans say they know someone who has had their hours cut or lost a job, while almost a third of Americans know someone who has been infected and one in seven know someone who has died.

  • Those in urban and suburban areas are most likely to know someone who has been infected or who has died.

Adding Coronavirus to Preexisting Condition Argument Is

In a test where half the sample was asked if they agree more with Democrats who support Obamacare or Trump in his push to terminate it, a majority chose Democrats. When adding coronavirus as a preexisting condition that would be protected by Obamacare, the share siding with Democrats grows by a net 6 points.

  • Among Republicans, comparing the messaging without coronavirus to the messaging with it mentioned as a preexisting condition, there is an 11-point increase in the share who agree with Democrats (from 16% to 27%).
  • Among independents, there is a 7-point increase in the share who agree with Democrats (47% to 54%).

Amid Conspiracies, Majority Favorable Towards Bill Gates

Despite disinformation theorizing that Bill Gates created the virus and other negative stories, he retains high levels of favorability.

  • Fox News consumption makes no difference in feelings towards Gates – among Republicans who watch Fox News frequently, 43% are favorable to him; among Republicans that don’t watch regularly, 42% are favorable.

Most Continue to Support Relief Bills

The vast majority of Americans – including both Democrats and Republicans – continue to support the relief bills passed by Congress.

Increasing Concern Relief Will Favor Wealthy

While a plurality still say that congressional relief bills will help all types of people, the share that says they will give too much to wealthy and big corporations has increased.

  • A majority of Democrats, and more than four in 10 independents, believe the relief bills will give too much to wealthy and big corporations, and not enough to people that need it most.
  • Among Republicans, there has been a 12-point decline in belief they will help all people (from 66% to 54%).

Wide Support for HEROES Act, Even After Hearing GOP Attack

A majority of Americans support the proposed HEROES Act and say they would disapprove of Republicans in the Senate not considering the legislation or putting it up for a vote.

  • This legislation is particularly popular among independents: 80% support it, while 60% disapprove of Republicans blocking it.

Democrats Lead on Supporting Middle & Working Class

A majority of Americans feel Donald Trump’s economic response favors wealthy and big corporations, while nearly half feel that congressional Democrats’ policies favor middle and working class people.

  • After reading about proposed relief legislation by congressional Democrats, there’s a 7-point increase in the share saying their policies favor middle and working class people (from 49% to 56%).