Public Opinion on Coronavirus: Navigator Update

Thursday, October 1, 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 1,002 registered voters conducted September 26-28, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Coronavirus, health care, and the economy remain the top concerns for Americans as Trump’s approval on handling each remains deeply negative.
  • There has been an uptick in the belief that “the worst is yet to come” in the pandemic as a majority of Americans believe new cases of coronavirus are on the rise.
  • Nearly half of Americans disagree with the decision to forego filing homicide charges in the case involving the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, and three in five say her shooting is part of a broader problem.

Trump’s Job Approval Ratings Are Still Underwater

Trump’s ratings remain underwater on several metrics, including health care, the pandemic, and the economy.

  • Trump’s ratings are all net negative with independents as well: on his job as president overall, he’s at -26 (33% approve/59% disapprove), -20 on the pandemic (36% approve/56% disapprove), and -7 on the economy (40% approve/47% disapprove).

Trump’s Handling of the Pandemic Is Americans’ Top Concern

Among those who do not strongly approve of the job Trump is doing as president, three in five are most concerned by Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • On a separate question, 94% of Americans say the pandemic is a “major crisis” or “major problem.”

Most Say Trump Is More Focused on Looking Out for Himself

By 10 points, Americans say that Trump is focused on the issues that matter to himself rather than focusing on the issues that matter to them.

  • Among those mixed on Trump*, only 46% say he is focused on issues that matter to them, and just 40% of independents say the same.

Coronavirus, Health Care, and Jobs & the Economy Remain Top Concerns for Americans

Across party lines, the pandemic, health care, and the economy remain Americans’ top concerns.

  • Other issues fuel more partisan concern, with Democrats also highly concerned about race relations and climate change, independents Social Security and Medicare, and Republicans immigration and terrorism.

Americans Noticing Recent Uptick as Majority Say Nationwide Cases Are Increasing

The shares who say the number of new cases is increasing in their state and in the country as a whole are both nearly at mid-June levels when the last major surge in cases happened in the United States.

  • Perceptions of cases differ by party: among Republicans, only a quarter (27%) say state cases are increasing and 32% say the same about the country, while 54% and 70% of Democrats say the same, respectively.

As New Cases Are on the Rise, Most Americans Say the “Worst is Yet to Come”

More than half of Americans say the “worst is yet to come” in the pandemic, while still only three in ten say the “worst is over.”

  • On a separate question, 46% also say we still “need more aggressive social distancing measures,” 31% say we are “currently doing the right thing,” and only 19% say “we should relax social distancing.”

Three in Five Are Still More Concerned Social Distancing Will End Too Soon

The majority of Americans remain more concerned that social distancing will end too soon, while less than a third say they are more concerned social distancing will go on too long.

  • Among independents, 50% are more concerned social distancing will end too soon, while only 22% are more concerned social distancing will go on too long.

Three in Five More Worried About National Health than the National Economy

The share who say they are more worried about the impact of coronavirus on people’s health has shifted back to early August levels, with the share who are more concerned about the national economy down to two in five.

  • While 57% of Republicans are more concerned about the economy as a whole, 75% of Democrats and 58% of independents are more concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on people’s health.

Americans Disagree With Breonna Taylor Decision By a Wide Margin

Americans across party lines are hearing about the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor – but while the vast majority of Democrats and a plurality of independents say the wrong decision was made and that homicide charges should have been filed against the involved police officers, a majority of Republicans say the right decision was made.

Americans See Fatal Shooting of Breonna Taylor as Part of a “Broader Problem” With Policing

As awareness grows around the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, since last asked June 8, there has been a 7-point increase in the share who say that the shooting of Breonna Taylor is a part of a “broader problem.”

  • Republicans continue to drive the share who consider the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor to be an “isolated incident”: the share who consider it isolated has grown 27 points since June 8 (from 24% to 51%).

Majority Say Trump Is Making Protests & Disorder Worse, Blame Him Over Democrats Since It’s Happening on His Watch

More than half of Americans say that Trump has made the situation with protests and disorder in the country worse and blame him because it’s happening on his watch rather than Democrats.

  • Even among Republicans, a quarter (26%) blame Trump over Democrats for the disorder in the country.

Across Last Three Months, Three in Five Consistently Support the Protests Focused on Police Treatment of Black Americans

Consistent with the last three months of tracking on the question, a majority support protests focused on police treatment of Black Americans.

  • On a separate question, 53% of Americans continue to have a favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement, while 42% view the movement unfavorably.