WASHINGTON – Less than three weeks from Election Day, majorities of Americans are highly critical of President Donald Trump’s handling of both the coronavirus pandemic and his own illness, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The survey also shows that few Americans have high levels of trust in the information the White House has released about Trump’s health. Initial accounts of the president’s condition were murky and contradictory, and the White House is still refusing to say when the president last tested negative for COVID-19 before his infection became public.
Trump’s illness and hospitalization has refocused the critical final stretch of the presidential campaign on the pandemic, which has killed more than 216,000 people in the United States this year. Democratic challenger Joe Biden has sought to make the election a referendum on the Republican president’s handling of the virus, arguing that Trump has mismanaged the pandemic and cost Americans lives.
The AP-NORC poll suggests many Americans agree with that sentiment, with 65% saying Trump has not taken the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. seriously enough. The poll, which was taken a week after Trump disclosed his own COVID-19 diagnosis, also shows that 54% of Americans disapprove with how the White House handled the episode.
The Rev. Joseph Wiseman, a 49-year-old registered Republican and Biden supporter from Wichita, Kansas, is among them. Wiseman said he was turned off by the president's “cavalier attitude” toward the pandemic and what he saw as Trump's “disregard for the health and well-being” of people around him who were exposed to the virus at White House events, as well as when the president drove in a vehicle with Secret Service agents to greet supporters during his hospital stay.
Trump spent four days at a military hospital just outside Washington, where he was treated with an aggressive drug regimen. On Sunday, his doctor said he was no longer contagious, and he’s returned to the campaign trail this week, holding rallies in battleground states across the country.
The president was eager to return to campaigning in part to send a message to Americans that they should not allow the virus to consume their lives. It's a message that has been well-received by some of the president's supporters.
“I think that from the start to the finish that he came through quite rapidly and he's back out there,” said Jim Gula, 71, a Republican and Trump supporter from Jacksonville, Florida. “And I think that's a reflection on the overall people who have come down with a positive test.”
The pandemic upended Trump’s plans to spend 2020 running on a strong economic record, thrusting him instead into the role of a president governing through crisis. He’s repeatedly tried to downplay the impact of the virus, even after his own illness, and has opposed some of the more stringent safety measures recommended by his own administration.
With early voting already underway in much of the country, national polls show Biden leading Trump by a comfortable margin, though many battleground states remain competitive. The president is spending much of this week campaigning in states that should be comfortable territory for him, including Iowa and Georgia, which hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since 1992.
The race has remained relatively stable for weeks, with Trump unable to gain significant ground on Biden through his efforts to refocus on a “law and order” message aimed at rallying white suburban voters or through his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court seat that opened after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
According to the poll, which was largely conducted before Barrett's Senate hearings this week, Americans were divided over her confirmation. Thirty percent favored the confirmation, 35% opposed and 34% said they held neither opinion. Republicans were much more likely to support the confirmation than Democrats.
Trump heads into Election Day with a 39% overall approval rating from Americans, on par with his approval ratings over the course of his presidency. But there are other warning signs for him in the AP-NORC poll.
Seventy-four percent of Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction, including half of Republicans.
And though the majority of Republicans, 83%, approve of Trump's overall job performance, fewer, 70%, are supportive of his handling of the pandemic. Republicans also showed some skepticism of the White House's handling of Trump's diagnosis, with just half saying they trusted the information provided to the public “a great deal” or “quite a bit.”
The president continues to earn more praise for his handling of the economy: 49% of Americans approve, and 51% disapprove. With unemployment still high and the fate of many businesses uncertain due to the pandemic, 61% of Americans described the nation's economy as poor.
But about two-thirds of Americans say their personal financial situation is good, which has remained consistent since before the pandemic.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,121 adults was conducted Oct. 8-12 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/.