Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Update

Wednesday, September 16, 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 September 10-14, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Though the rate of new cases has plateaued in the United States, half still say the “worst is yet to come” in the pandemic and rate it as a top issue.
  • On the pandemic, the public is most concerned Trump admitted to downplaying the virus in recently released audio tapes and is rushing to get a vaccine developed.
  • While most Americans say they are “pro-vaccine,” they are mixed on whether it will be safe to get a coronavirus vaccine.

Trump’s Job Approval Ratings Remain Underwater

Consistent with aggregate data across the last six months, Trump’s approval ratings remain in the negative.

  • Among independents in the latest survey, Trump is 20 points underwater on his handling of the economy (34% approve/54% disapprove) and 33 points underwater on his overall approval (29% approve/62% disapprove).

Trump’s Handling of the Pandemic and His Lies Remain the Top Negative Things Heard About Him

The vast majority (78%) continue to hear some negative things about Trump this week, with a focus on his handling of the pandemic, lying to the public about the danger of coronavirus, and his comments disparaging the military.

Majority Know Someone Who Has Gotten Sick and One in Four Know Someone Who Has Died from Coronavirus

With total U.S. cases approaching seven million and nearly 200,000 dead from coronavirus, more than half of Americans know someone who has been infected and a quarter know someone who has died from it.

  • Hispanic Americans and Black Americans are more likely to both know someone who has been infected and to know someone who has died from coronavirus than white Americans.

Half Remain Concerned That “Worst Is Yet to Come”

In the last two weeks, the share who say the “worst is yet to come” has increased 2 points, while the share who say the “worst is over” is down 5 points.

  • Among independents, 54% say the “worst is yet to come” while only 22% say the “worst is over.”

Despite Plateau in Rate of New Cases, Pandemic Remains a Top Priority for Three in Five Americans

Coronavirus and the economy are the two issues that receive a high priority from Democrats, independents, and Republicans, while issues like climate change and violent crime and disorder are divided by partisanship.

Three in Five Say Trump Has Given Up Fighting Coronavirus

A majority say Trump has given up fighting coronavirus and that he wants what is best for himself instead of what is best for the country.

  • Among 2016 Trump voters*, 25% say that he has given up fighting coronavirus and 23% say he wants what is best for himself over what is best for the country.

Top Concerns on Trump: Nearly 200,000 Americans Dead from Pandemic, His Making the Situation in Cities Worse

In thinking about Trump’s job performance recently, Americans are most concerned about his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and the way he has worsened the situation in many cities.

Trump Admitting Downplaying Coronavirus, Rushing to Get Vaccine Are Top Pandemic-Related Concerns

Released in a recent audio tape from January, Trump’s admission that he purposefully downplayed the coronavirus is the most concerning item related to his handling of the pandemic.

  • More than a third (35%) of independents find his purposeful downplaying of the virus most concerning.

Vast Majority of Americans Are “Pro-Vaccine,” But Only Half Would Choose to Get Coronavirus Vaccine

On a separate question, nearly two in three plan on getting the flu vaccine this year, including 68% of Democrats, 47% of independents, and 62% of Republicans.

Most Hesitancy Toward Coronavirus Vaccine Is About Safety of This Vaccine – Not Vaccines in General

While half of Americans say they will get the coronavirus vaccine, nearly a third say they generally support vaccines but feel unsure about whether the coronavirus vaccine will be safe.

On Vaccines, Growing Share Are More Concerned America Will Push to Develop One Too Quickly

Three in five now say they are more concerned that America will go too far in pushing to develop a vaccine too quickly rather than that America will be too cautious and slow.

Democrats in Congress More Trusted Than Trump to Handle Approval and Distribution of Coronavirus Vaccine

The president faces a double-digit deficit on trust compared to Democrats in Congress on handling the approval and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.

  • Among those mixed on Trump*, 39% trust Democrats in Congress more to handle the approval and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine while only 27% trust Trump more.

Fauci Is Most Trusted to Tell the Truth on Coronavirus Vaccine While Trump Is Least Trusted

Three in four say they trust Dr. Fauci “a lot” or “some” to tell the truth about the safety of the coronavirus vaccine, while only two in five say the same about Donald Trump.

  • Among independents (33%) and Democrats (63%), Fauci is the most trusted to tell the truth about a vaccine. Among Republicans, Donald Trump is the most trusted (47%).