Americans respond to nation’s handling of COVID-19 crisis

By Emily Bader
New Jersey | Mar 23, 2020 at 2:00 pm

The nation’s governors have been receiving higher praise than the president in the way they are handling the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest Monmouth University Poll.

Still, Donald Trump has gotten positive ratings for his actions around the coronavirus outbreak (50% good job vs. 45% bad job). Governors, on the other hand, have received much higher ratings, with 72% of the public saying their state’s governor has done a good job compared to 18% saying they’ve done a bad one. Opinions on how Trump has dealt with the crisis are noticeably partisan, with 89% of Republicans, 48% of independents and 18% of Democrats saying he’s doing a good job. Public praise is much more bipartisan among governors, with 76% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans and 67% of independents agreeing that the job has been dealt with well.

In the top four states (New Jersey, New York, California and Washington) with the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases: 74% say the governor there has done a good job. For states with moderately low to moderately high cases, the same bears true (between 71% and 73% good job). Those living in states with the fewest reported incidents also reported positives about their governor’s response, but slightly less at 61%.

“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,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.

The job Trump is doing as president has ticked up slightly since last month. His job rating stands at 46% approve and 48% disapprove, compared to 44% and 50%, respectively, in February. Among Republicans, he has a 91% approval to 5% disapproval rate, 44% to 48% among independents, and 11% to 85% among Democrats.

“Trump has cast himself as a wartime president, but the small increase in his current job rating falls far short of the ‘rally round the flag’ effect past presidents have experienced,” Murray said.

Six out of 10 (62%) of Americans polled said the steps their state has taken to mitigate the spread of the virus are appropriate while 25% say they have not gone far enough and 9% think its gone gone too far. Americans are even less satisfied with the federal government, with 47% saying the response was appropriate, 45% saying it didn’t go far enough and 6% saying it’s gone too far.

“Ambivalence toward the federal government’s response seems to be focused more on elected officials than on the civil servants who work in key agencies,” Murray said.

The pandemic is one of the most influential factors in American’s lives right now, the poll found. Nearly 6 in 10 (57%) of Americans said the outbreak was the biggest concern currently facing their family. The sentiment is widespread, with the poll finding minimal differences among demographics. Other issues include employment and job security (7%), paying everyday bills (6%), the economy (5%) and health care costs (5%).

“The coronavirus outbreak has probably heightened the economic and health care anxieties we usually see at the top of this list. But the huge number of people who name COVID-19 as their top concern on this standard polling question illustrates just how all-consuming this pandemic has become in Americans’ daily lives,” Murray said.

The poll found the outbreak has had a major impact on nearly 53% of Americans daily lives, with 32% saying it has only a minor impact to them and 15% saying it has no real impact. Among those who felt a major impact, nearly one-third (31%) said the biggest change has been cuts to their work hours or layoffs, 8% said working from home, 4% said an increase in their workload and 9% reported nonspecific work issues. Social interaction impacts mentioned include being isolated or self-quarantined (13%), not being able to go out in public (17%) and not being able to see family or friends (9%). Child-related issues include 11% saying having their school aged children at home has been one of the biggest changes to their lives and 6% reported closing colleges and universities is the biggest impact. Other changes reported include a shortage of food and supplies (13%) and a growing sense of fear, stress and distrust (9%).

The poll focused on seven potential habit changes on Americans’ lives. The most widely experienced impact includes not going out to stores and businesses as often (66%), spending more time watching TV and movies (57%), a loss of income (35%), more online shopping (22%) working from home for the first time (20%), getting groceries delivered (12%), problems getting childcare (7%).

Nearly two-thirds (70%) of Americans are concerned someone in their family will become ill from the coronavirus (38% very concerned, 32% somewhat concerned, 18% not too concerned, 12% not at all concerned). Those aged 55+ (49%) are more likely to be very concerned than their younger counterparts (35-54, 38% and 18-34, 27%).

A majority of Americans are either very confident (25%) or somewhat confident (37%) that the country will be able to limit the outbreak over the next few weeks, with 21% being not too confident and 15% are not at all confident. Currently, 39% of the public believes the country is going in the right direction while 54% say it’s on the wrong track.

The poll was conducted from March 18-22, 2020 with 851 adults. The questions have a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus:

Emily Bader | ebader@roi-nj.com | @emilybader