Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Update

Wednesday, September 2, 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 1,007 registered voters conducted August 27 – 31, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Trump’s job approval ratings have moved back toward pre-convention levels.
  • Americans’ top policy priorities are the pandemic, jobs and the economy, and health care.
  • The public sees the Republican Party as most focused on jobs and the economy and immigration, while seeing the Democratic Party as most focused on the pandemic and race relations.

Trump Job Approval Moves Back to Pre-Convention Levels

Following the Republican National Convention, some of Trump’s approval ratings have received a slight boost since their post-Democratic National Convention decline.

  • Republicans are driving the recent boost: their approval of his handling of the economy has improved from +78 last week to +85 this week, and their ratings of his handling of the pandemic have improved from +64 to +74.

Trump’s “Lies” at the RNC and His Handling of Coronavirus Dominate Negative Conversation on Him

The vast majority (78%) continue to hear some negative things about President Trump this week, with a strong focus on the pandemic, the Republican National Convention, and patterns of lying.

Few Say Social Distancing Should Be Relaxed – But Dip in Desire for More Aggressive Social Distancing

While the share who say the country needs more aggressive social distancing measures is down 8 points since last week, still less than one in six say the country should relax social distancing measures.

  • Republicans are driving the share who say the country should relax social distancing measures (28%).

Fewer Americans Say the Worst of the Pandemic is Yet to Come

The share saying the “worst is yet to come” in the pandemic has declined to pre-resurgence levels in early June, driven in part by 60% of Republicans who now say “the worst is over.”

  • Among independents, 58% still say the “worst is yet to come” while only 20% say the “worst is over.”

Public Accepts “Normal” Won’t Come Until 2021 or Longer

Nearly three in four say America will not return to normal in 2020 – with almost one in ten saying it never will.

  • Democrats are the most likely to say the United States will not return to normal until 2021 or later (87%), while Republicans are least likely to say the same (53%).

Two in Three Support Shutting Down Country Again if Experts Recommend It

A majority support shutting down the country again if public health experts recommend it, including two in five who say they “strongly support” it.

  • Even among 2016 Trump voters, 40% support shutting down again if health experts recommend it.

Vast Majority Support Maintaining Social Distancing Until a Vaccine is Developed and Readily Available

Four in five support keeping social distancing measures in place until a vaccine is developed and readily available, with a majority who “strongly support.”

  • On a separate question, 58% say they are more concerned social distancing will end too soon, while only 33% are more concerned it will go on too long.

Americans Prioritizing Pandemic, Jobs and the Economy, and Health Care as Top Issues

Coronavirus and the economy are the two issues that receive a high priority from Democrats, independents, and Republicans.

Americans Say GOP Is Not Focused Enough on Pandemic

Despite coronavirus being the top priority for most Americans, the public sees Republicans as mostly focused on jobs and the economy and immigration, not the pandemic.

Democrats Seen as Focusing on the Pandemic and Race Relations

Americans see Democrats as most focused on the pandemic and race relations, while they say they are not focused enough on corruption in government and jobs and the economy.

GOP Seen as Party of Its Base and the Wealthy; Democrats of People of Color, Low Income, and Youth

Republicans see their own party as the party of working class people, middle class people, and people like you, and Democrats see their own party as the party of people of color, working class people, and low income people.

Americans Had Far More Positive Impression of Biden’s Convention Speech Than Trump’s

More than half say they had a favorable impression of Biden’s acceptance speech, while less than two in five had a positive impression of Trump’s acceptance speech.

  • Among those mixed on Trump, only 26% had a positive impression of Trump’s speech, while 37% had a positive impression of Biden’s.

Democratic National Convention Left More Positive Impression than Republican National Convention

A majority say they had a positive impression of the Democratic National Convention on the whole, 12 points higher than the share who said the same about the Republican National Convention.

  • Among independents, the difference is steeper: impressions of the DNC were 15 points higher than the RNC.