The problem with that presentation, though, is that Gallup’s poll numbers were compiled from Feb. 3 to Feb. 16 of this year — well before the subsequent surge in cases, before the emergence of community transmission and before the first coronavirus-related death in the United States. In other words, the Gallup poll was largely speculative and not a reflection of the government’s behavior since then.
On Monday, Quinnipiac University released polling that actually evaluates the capability of the government in the current moment. In that poll, Trump’s administration fared worse.
According to Quinnipiac, just over half of Americans have confidence in the federal government to handle the response to the spread of the coronavirus. That confidence varies widely by party, with Republicans overwhelmingly confident in the government and most Democrats more skeptical.
Again, though, the poll captured much less confidence than Gallup did several weeks ago.
Americans were more broadly confident in the health-care system’s ability to handle the virus. While Republicans were still more likely to express confidence than Democrats, majorities of every political group indicated their confidence in that system. Democrats were 20 points more likely to express confidence in the health-care system than in the government.
Views of Trump’s handling of the crisis, meanwhile, were far worse. A plurality of respondents disapproved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus situation, including half of independents and more than three-quarters of Democrats.
Those numbers generally mirror approval of Trump overall, with independents expressing slightly more confidence in Trump’s handling of the coronavirus than in his performance as president otherwise.
More alarming for Trump in an election year might be that his most likely opponent in November, former vice president Joe Biden, is generally given higher marks on his ability to handle a crisis. Most respondents said that Biden would do a better job handling a crisis, with 7 percent of Republicans included in that number.
Independents had more confidence in Biden’s capability than Trump’s by a 26-point margin.
It’s absolutely the case that views of Trump himself color the responses to these questions. Were Trump viewed more positively, it’s obvious that views of the federal government’s response would be more positive. But that works the other way, too: Were the government’s response viewed more positively, Trump probably would be, as well.
Trump has been looking for an issue on which he can claim an unmitigated win from the American public. Despite Gallup’s numbers from last month (which, again, focused on the government and not on the president), it seems likely that the coronavirus won’t be that issue. Or, perhaps more worrisome for Trump, that the past few weeks have eroded confidence in the government’s response.