Trump’s poll numbers rising despite intense criticism of coronavirus handling.
President Trump continues to face intense criticism of how his administration has dealt with the coronavirus — except from a majority of the voters who will decide his fate in November.
Recent polling shows a sharp swing toward Trump on dealing with the mounting public health crisis, even as he has taken on a more confrontational posture toward the media in daily press briefings and Republicans find themselves in a pitched battle with Democrats on Capitol Hill on the fate of the coronavirus stimulus package.
Both the virus and the economic downturn triggered by efforts to slow its spread have emerged as potentially mortal threats to Trump’s reelection, but Republicans are cautiously optimistic about the recent numbers.
A Morning Consult poll taken last week recorded a nearly 10-point jump in net approval of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus in a matter of days, with 53% approving and 39% disapproving. The biggest driver of this increase was separate 8-point spikes in approval among Democrats and independents. An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday had 55% approving of Trump’s coronavirus management, up 12 points from the previous week, while 43% disapproved.
A Monmouth University poll released on Monday found 50% of people thought Trump was doing a good job coping with the outbreak to 45% who believed he was doing a bad job. The same survey found Trump’s overall job approval rating ticking up to 46%, with 48% still disapproving.
“The president gets more positive than negative marks for his handling of the COVID outbreak, but his numbers are still driven by the nation’s typical partisan divide. Governors, on the other hand, seem to be emerging as the most trusted official voice in this crisis across the board,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a statement accompanying the results.
The improvement in Trump’s polling on the issue comes as public concern about the coronavirus has increased.
“Americans tend to rally around their political leaders in time of crisis, and current data indicates that’s what’s happening right now,” said Neil Newhouse, a pollster for Bob Dole’s, George W. Bush’s, and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns. “Even though attitudes toward President Trump have been extraordinarily polarized since he was elected, his approval scores reflect significant improvement. The president’s tone and approach to the coronavirus crisis seems to resonate with Americans who are looking for national leadership. Significantly, one recent poll shows that fully 30% of Democrats approve of the way the president is handling the current crisis, some 20 points above his usual Democratic Party support.”
Trump’s improved numbers follow his appearances at regular press briefings and his endorsement of more drastic government action to confront the coronavirus. The president signed a coronavirus relief bill into law last week, while Senate Democrats have now twice blocked a stimulus package intended to counteract the economic effects of the quarantine. Trump has also been quick to spar with reporters whose coverage he views as too negative.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the likely Democratic nominee to challenge Trump, has generally kept a low profile during the outbreak but has popped up occasionally to criticize the president and argue the coronavirus demonstrates the need for a more conventional occupant of the Oval Office. “Trump keeps saying that he’s a wartime president. Well, start to act like one,” Biden said in his coronavirus “shadow briefing” Monday.
Still, the situation is volatile. The stock market gains since Trump was elected have already been erased, and unemployment is poised to balloon, as economic forecasters project tens of millions of jobs could be affected. Rising death tolls and more draconian lockdowns nationwide could also reverse the current trend in Trump’s approval.
“Poll numbers are a lagging indicator, and most Americans have yet to directly feel the impact of the coronavirus, so we should take the latest numbers with a grain of salt,” said Republican strategist Alex Conant. “Trump’s poll numbers in a couple of weeks will be a lot more informative than they are right now. During a national crisis, there is a natural rallying around the president, which might explain Trump’s initial polling bump. But if the American people feel like the president isn’t doing a good job leading them through a crisis over the coming months, the president’s numbers will turn negative.”
The accuracy of Trump’s coronavirus statements and predictions, the tone of his press briefings, and whether he has done enough to prepare the country for the scope of the problem all remain targets of criticism as he signals his impatience with the current “social distancing” strategy. On Monday, Trump detractors circulated seemingly critical quotes from an interview coronavirus point man Anthony Fauci gave to Science magazine, including, “When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens.”