Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Update

Wednesday, August 12, 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 1,019 registered voters conducted August 6 – 10, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Most Americans continue to say “the worst is yet to come” in the pandemic – though fewer than last month – while a majority still support “more aggressive” social distancing.
  • A majority are more concerned about going too far in pushing for a vaccine than being too cautious and slow.
  • The public says Trump should stay out of the development of the vaccine and that politics should be kept out of vaccine decision-making.

Trump Approval Ratings Remain Negative, Though With Slight Improvement From July

A majority of Americans continue to disapprove of the president’s handling of a range of issues, from health care to the pandemic – though this week’s ratings show a slight uptick for the president.

  • Republicans are largely driving these somewhat higher approval ratings: 86% approve of Trump’s handling of his job as president this week, as compared to 79% just last week.

Coronavirus Dominates Negative Conversation on Trump Over the Last Week

The vast majority (79%) continue to hear some negative things about President Trump this week, with a focus on his handling of coronavirus and, to a lesser degree, the reopening of schools.

Majority Still Believe “Worst is Yet to Come” Despite Slight Decline Since Mid-July

Since July 20, the share saying the “worst is yet to come” in the pandemic has decreased by 9 points, though less than a quarter still believe the “worst is over.”

  • In the last three weeks, the share who think the “worst is yet to come” has declined by 11 points among Republicans, from 45% to 34%.

Majority Still Support “More Aggressive” Social Distancing

More than half continue to say the country needs more aggressive social distancing measures, while less than one in six say that the country should relax social distancing.

  • On a separate question, 54% of Americans continue to say their state should reverse its reopening plans and put back in place more restrictions given the status of coronavirus in their state.

Americans Favor Caution Over Moving Too Quickly on Vaccines

A majority are more concerned about potential negative consequences of moving too quickly on vaccinations than about being too cautious and slow.

  • Even among those in high infection states*, 57% say they are more concerned about going too far in pushing to develop a vaccine quickly rather than being too cautious and slow.

“Listening to Public Health Experts” and “Truth” Most Important Principles in Developing Vaccine

Americans see the most important principles for a president to uphold in the development of a coronavirus vaccine to be: “listening to public health experts,” “truth,” and “transparency.”

  • The perceived importance of “dedication to science” is split along partisan lines: while 51% of Democrats say it is one of the most important principles, only 39% of independents and 29% of Republicans say the same.

Majority Want Trump to Stay Out of Vaccine Development

Nearly two in three say they would prefer that Trump stay out of the development of a coronavirus vaccine and leave the issue to experts, while less than a quarter say he should get involved to expedite the process.

  • Among 2016 Trump voters, only 43% say that Trump should get involved, while 35% say that he should stay out of developing a vaccine and leave it to experts instead.

Fauci and FDA Endorsement of Vaccine Far More Important Than Trump’s

Roughly two in five say that if Dr. Fauci or the Food and Drug Administration announced a vaccine was ready for distribution, they would try to get vaccinated. Only one in five say the same of a Trump announcement.

  • Among Republicans, only 26% say they would try to get vaccinated if the Trump administration announced a vaccine was ready for distribution: 17% of Democrats and 15% of independents say the same.

Vast Majority Agree Trump Needs to Be Transparent About Vaccine Data, Keep Politics Out of Decision-Making

More than three in four agree the Trump administration needs to be transparent about any clinical vaccine data, experts need to be able to make decisions without political pressure, and political staff should not get the final say.

Top Trump Vaccine Concerns: Putting Kushner in Charge, Ignoring Experts

Nearly two in three say a range of issues – from putting Kushner in charge of vaccine development, to ignoring experts, to giving Kodak $765 million – raise concerns for them in how Trump is handling a coronavirus vaccine.

Majorities Unfavorable to Trump “It Is What It Is” Clip, Feel He Could Have Done More to Prevent 160,000 Deaths

Almost two-thirds are unfavorable to the clip of Trump’s recent HBO interview, with more than half saying that Trump could have done more and that many of the 160,000 American deaths could have been prevented.