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 release features findings from a national online survey of 1,007 registered voters conducted May 28-June 1, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Disapproval of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has hit the highest point yet in our tracking.
  • The share of Americans who say Trump’s response is compassionate has fallen to a new low, particularly among African Americans.
  • Americans see the high death toll and a study finding 36,000 lives might have been saved with quicker action as evidence Trump made the outbreak worse than it needed to be.

Trump’s Pandemic Disapproval Continues to Rise

Nearly six in 10 Americans now disapprove of the way that Trump is handling the coronavirus pandemic, the highest yet in our tracking.

  • 47% of Americans say they “strongly disapprove” of Trump’s handling.
  • Only half (50%) of Republicans say they “strongly approve” of Trump’s handling.

Trump’s Coronavirus Response: Self-Absorbed & Uncompassionate

The majority of Americans say that negative words, including self-absorbed, unprepared, chaotic, irresponsible, and negligent, apply to Donald Trump’s response to coronavirus, while less than half say positive words apply.

  • The majority of independents (54%) and nearly half the public overall (47%) say that “self-absorbed” very much applies to Trump’s response.

Steep Decline in African American Perceptions of “Compassion”

African Americans are especially likely to say ”compassionate” does not apply to Donald Trump’s response to coronavirus, though there has also been a decline among white Americans saying “compassionate” applies.

  • There’s been a net shift of 32 points among African Americans (-38 to -70) in the last two weeks.

Lack of Early Action Underscores How Trump Worsened Pandemic

Only about half of Americans have heard about a Columbia University study that found 36,000 lives might have been saved if Trump had acted more quickly on social distancing, but when they do hear about it, most believe this information reveals a failure by Trump.

Uniquely High Death Toll Raises More Concern than High Infection Rate

While highlighting the high rates of infection in the United States still concerns Americans, more are concerned by Trump’s handling resulting in far more people dying in the United States than in other countries.

  • This comes as more than one in ten Americans (13%) say they know someone who has lost their life to the virus.

How It Got This Bad: Ignoring Early Warnings, Failing to Develop a Strategy

The public sees Trump’s ignoring of early warnings, cutting programs at the CDC, and failing to develop a national strategy as actions that made the impacts of the pandemic worse.