CBS poll: Views of Trump’s handling of outbreak slip again

Most Americans continue to think the battle against the coronavirus outbreak is going badly, and few would feel comfortable being out in crowded spaces now. There’s a collective uncertainty about where things are headed next, since just as many think things will get better as get worse, but that nonetheless reflects more optimism than Americans had last week, when their outlook was even more dire.

Views on President Trump’s handling of the outbreak response have ticked down for the second consecutive week. The president is seen doing a good job by 47%, down four points from 51% last week and 53% the prior week. Now is the first time more say he’s doing a bad job than a good one. 

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The president gets comparably better marks on his handling of the economic impact of the outbreak, specifically, with 51% saying he’s doing a good job.

Different views on Mr. Trump’s handling of the outbreak are driven by very different assessments of what’s happening in the country.

We asked people why they thought the president was doing either a good or bad job. Those who said “good job” listed among their big reasons that the virus is being contained and that doctors are getting the supplies they need. 

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Those who felt he’s doing a “bad job” overwhelmingly cited as their reasons that the opposite was happening: that the outbreak isn’t being contained, and that medical professionals aren’t getting supplies.

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And for many partisans, rating the president now is not just about the metrics on containment. There appears to be a lot of built-up trust or mistrust of him more generally. Republicans, who think he’s doing a good job, said trust in his judgment was the biggest reason they approve. Democrats, who think he’s doing a bad job, overwhelmingly said they don’t trust that judgment.

Moreover, 40% of Republicans said another big reason they give him good marks now is that they’ve always been supporters; a similar percentage of Democrats who gave him bad marks said a big reason was that they never backed him in the first place.

And the frequency of the president’s press conferences is a particular plus for Republicans who think he’s doing a good job, but not much of a factor for those who think he’s doing a bad one.

There’s been an uptick in the percent who say looking back, the Trump administration wasn’t prepared to deal with the outbreak — at 71% now, up from 66% two weeks ago.

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As the death toll from the virus climbs, there is some optimism that treatments are on the way: more than one-third think effective treatments will be developed in the next few months; another third think those will take a year or more. 

Relatively few Americans say effective treatments that can cure coronavirus exist right now – 22% think so. But that belief is somewhat related to political ideology: it doubles, rising to 45%, among the very conservative, who think cures are available now.

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There are signs Americans think the outbreak will start to ease, even if they’re not yet ready to say containment is going well. Last week, 51% expected the outbreak would get worse over the next month. Now just 38% say it will get worse, the same percentage who expect things will get better. 

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And Democrats and Republicans in similar numbers agree that they’ll feel comfortable going to crowded places again when medical officials – more so than the government – say it is safe. Democrats in particular say they’ll feel comfortable once a treatment or vaccine is developed, too.

But for now most still feel the effort to control the outbreak is not going well.

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Among Americans overall, the president isn’t seen as a trusted source for medical information about the outbreak (37%) at the same level that the CDC (78%) or scientists and medical professionals are generally (86%). This is different for Republicans, 80% of whom also trust the president for that information alongside these other sources.

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This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,025 U.S. residents interviewed between April 7-9, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 presidential vote and registration status. The margin of error is +/- 2.6 points.

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