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 edition of our daily tracking release features findings from a national online survey of 1,012 registered voters conducted May 21-May 25, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Trump’s pandemic approval rating remains low as more people hear about him not wearing a mask and claiming to take hydroxychloroquine.
  • The vast majority of Americans say elected officials should be required to wear masks in government buildings, and two thirds disapprove of Trump not wearing one.
  • Despite many states reopening, a majority remain concerned social distancing will end too soon and prolong the pandemic, and few want to speed up reopening in their own state.

Trump’s Pandemic Approval Remains Deeply Underwater

Only 41% of Americans approve of the way that Trump is handling the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Only 36% of independents approve of his handling of the pandemic.
  • Among whites without a college degree, just over half (51%) approve of his handling, while only 42% of college educated whites and 23% of people of color approve.

Americans Hearing About Trump Taking Unproven Drugs and Not Wearing a Mask

Since May 18, negative conversation around Trump’s handling continues to include concern about reopening the country too soon, as well as his refusal to wear a mask and taking drugs that have not been proven to work.

Fellow Americans Ignoring Precautions Now a Top Worry

Worries about other Americans not wearing masks or social distancing and causing the virus to spread is a top worry, comparable to nursing home vulnerability and the possibility of a second wave after reopening.

  • Among independents, 78% are “very” or “somewhat” worried about other people not following precautions, as are 65% of Republicans.

Vast Majority of Public Identify as “Pro-Mask”

Nearly three in four Americans overall are pro-mask: even among Republicans, more than half say they are.

  • Among Republican women, 64% say they are “pro-mask.” However, less than half of Republican men (48%) say the same.

Majorities Disapprove of Trump Not Wearing Mask and Say Elected Officials Should be Required To Wear Them

Two thirds of Americans disapprove of Donald Trump not wearing a face mask in public, and the vast majority –  regardless of party – support elected officials being required to wear masks in government buildings.

Among Disapprovers, Far More Are Worried Trump is Encouraging Others Not To Wear Masks

Among those who disapprove of Trump not wearing a mask, three in four are more concerned that him not wearing a mask in public encourages others to do the same than him putting other government officials at risk.

  • Among Americans who have most recently been employed in the service industry, 90% say they are most bothered by Trump not wearing masks and encouraging others to also not wear them.

Non-Mask Wearers: “Irresponsible”

When shown a list of possible descriptors, top choices Americans select to describe those they see not wearing masks at public gatherings include “irresponsible,” “reckless,” “selfish,” and “dangerous.”

  • Among Democrats, 58% choose “irresponsible” as do 55% of independents.

Majority Disapprove of Trump Taking Hydroxychloroquine, But Split On Whether He Actually Is

A majority disapprove of Trump’s decision to announce he is taking hydroxychloroquine, while less than half actually believe he is taking the drug.

  • On a separate question, 78% of Americans say they have heard “a lot” or “some” about Trump telling reporters he was taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent coronavirus.

Public Most Concerned Trump Promoting Unproven Drug, Describe it as “Stupid” and “Lies”

Americans are most concerned that Trump is promoting an unproven drug rather than his lying about it or leading to shortages of the drug for those that really need it.

  • When asked to describe Trump taking hydroxychloroquine, both Democrats and Republicans call the decision “stupid” – but Republicans say it is his choice to do so, while Democrats say it is “irresponsible” and “reckless.”

Majority Oppose National Reopening, But GOP Shifting

The decline in opposition to reopening is driven by Republicans.

  • Both Democrats and independents have grown more opposed to reopening soon, with a net increase of 6 points among Democrats and 5 points among independents since May 18.
  • Among Republicans who watch Fox News, 74% support the country reopening in the next few weeks. Among Republicans who do not watch Fox News, only 57% support reopening soon.

Most Remain Concerned Social Distancing Will End Too Soon

Nearly three in five Americans continue to say they are more concerned that social distancing will end too soon and prolong the pandemic than that it will go on too long and hurt the economy.

  • Among independents, 58% remain more concerned that social distancing will end too soon and prolong the pandemic, while only 29% are more concerned it will go on too long.

Few Want to Speed Up Reopening in Their Own State

Two in five say their state is moving too quickly to reopen; just 17% think their state is not moving quickly enough.

  • 48% of Americans now say that their state is more open than closed, compared to 36% last week.
  • In states that respondents report as more open than closed, nearly half (49%) think their state is moving too quickly to reopen.