AP-NORC poll: Trump approval remains steady during pandemic

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President Donald Trump pumps his fist while boarding Air Force One as he departs Thursday, May 21, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Trump will visit a Ypsilanti, Mich., Ford plant that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON – As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, Americans’ views of the federal and state government response to the crisis are starting to sour — yet President Donald Trump’s personal approval rating has remained steady.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 41% of Americans approve of the president’s job performance, while 58% disapprove. That’s consistent with opinions of Trump before the pandemic, as well as throughout his more than three years in office.

The survey highlights one of the remarkable features of Trump’s tenure as president: Despite a steady drumbeat of controversies, an impeachment trial and now a historic public health crisis, few Americans have changed their views of him. He’s failed to increase his support in any measurable way, yet he also has retained the approval of his core backers, including the overwhelming majority of Republicans.

“The Trump presidency is a perfect example of the Rorschach test of politics,” said Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist who worked for Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign. “People that want to see that the president is doing a good job will see that regardless of where the chips fall. If they want to see that he’s doing a crappy job, they will see that regardless of what happens.”

Less than six months from his Election Day face-off against Democrat Joe Biden, the consistency of Trump’s support appears to leave him with the same narrow path to victory that first propelled him to the White House in 2016, even as the pandemic and resulting economic crisis upend nearly every aspect of American life.

Biden's campaign believes Trump's uneven handling of the crisis will ultimately cost him his job in November.

“The scale of the loss is staggering and it’s infuriating,” Biden said this week. “But more than that, it’s heartbreaking to think how much fear, how much loss, how much agony could have been avoided if the president hadn’t wasted so much time and taken responsibility."

The AP-NORC survey comes as the death toll in the U.S. from COVID-19 nears 100,000 people. Robust testing remains a challenge, and a vaccine is months or years away. Yet the scope of the economic toll — nearly 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment since March — has also increased the urgency in many states to begin reopening businesses.