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 1,011 registered voters conducted May 15-May 18, 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Trump’s approval on his handling of the pandemic has hit yet another low in our tracking.
  • Americans trust Dr. Fauci and Democrats more than Trump on how to reopen and continue to have concerns reopening is happening too quickly in their state.
  • Adequate protective equipment for medical workers, widespread testing, and adherence to a plan made by medical experts are seen as key components of a safe reopening.

Trump’s Pandemic Approval Hits New Low

Only 40% Americans say they approve of how Trump is handling the pandemic, the lowest point in our tracking.

  • There’s now been a net change of 26 points in Trump’s handling since March 23rd (from +10 to -16).
  • One in five (20%) Republicans now disapprove of how Trump is handling the coronavirus pandemic. Among independents, just 32% approve of his handling.

Negative Conversation Around Trump Centers On Unsafe Reopening, Ignoring Experts, Lack of Testing

Since May 12, the conversation has continued to shift toward concern about Trump reopening the country too soon, as well as lack of testing and his refusal to wear a mask.

  • Concerns about the example he sets in not wearing a mask come as two thirds of Americans (66%) say they regularly wear a mask.

Continued Opposition to Ending Social Distancing

The majority of Americans are still more concerned that social distancing will end too soon and prolong the pandemic rather than go too long, and oppose the country reopening in the next few weeks.

  • While only 20% of Democrats and 35% of independents support reopening in the next few weeks, 53% of Republicans do. 50% of Republicans also are more concerned social distancing will go on too long.

Few Think Reopening Happening Too Slowly in Their State

A third say reopening is happening too quickly in their state, while a plurality say that their state is getting the timing about right.

  • In states that respondents report as more open than closed, the plurality (47%) say their state is moving too quickly to reopen.

High Levels of Trust in Fauci, CDC to Tell Truth on Pandemic

Despite attempts to blame the CDC and to polarize opinion on Dr. Fauci, Americans – regardless of party – trust them to tell the truth.

  • 57% of Americans do not trust Donald Trump to tell the truth on coronavirus, including 20% of Republicans.

Fauci More Trusted Than Trump on Reopening

By 31 points, Americans trust Dr. Fauci more than Trump to decide when to reopen the country. Even a third of Republicans trust Fauci more.

  • On a separate question, 46% of Americans say they trust Democrats in Congress more than Trump to make decisions about how and when to reopen the country, as opposed to 37% who trust Trump more.

Americans Worry Trump and Congressional Republicans Not Focusing Enough on Spread

More than half of Americans say Democratic governors are getting the balance just about right on the economy and health during the pandemic, and a plurality say Democrats in Congress are getting the balance right.

Majority Say We Must Resolve Health Crisis to Restart Economy

The majority of Americans say that resolving the health crisis is imperative to restarting the economy, including a majority of independents and nearly half of Republicans.

  • In a separate question, nearly three in four Americans (73%) say they are more worried about their family’s health and well-being than their financial situation.

Public Agrees Health Precautions Key to Fixing Economy

A majority of Americans think that health precautions and improvements to our health care system are necessities to fixing our economy and reopening.

PPE Supplies, Testing, Expertise Seen as Key for Safe Reopening

More than half of Americans say that PPE for medical professionals, widespread testing, adhering to reopening plans created by experts, and vaccines are needed to reopen communities safely.

  • While more than half of Democrats (82% very important) and independents (60%) say that testing is very important to reopening, only 39% of Republicans say the same.

Vast Majority Troubled By Images of Recent Crowding

Even as communities reopen, the vast majority of Americans, including Republicans, say that images of people not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing are acting irresponsibly.