Since then, polling has offered a mixed picture of how Americans view Trump’s handling of the situation. It is explicit, though, in one obvious shift: Americans are adjusting their behavior in the wake of the virus’s emergence.
ABC News and its polling partner Ipsos released a survey Friday morning showing a reversal in views of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, more Americans disapproved of Trump’s efforts than approved; this week, more approve. That shift was driven by an increase in the number of Democrats who give Trump positive marks on the subject. Most still disapprove, but his net approval among Democrats moved from minus-72 to minus-39, a 30-point swing.
That’s one measurement, though. Polling from the Economist and YouGov shows a more modest shift both among Democrats and overall. In that polling, approval of Trump’s handling of the crisis is essentially unchanged from last week to this one. The change among Democrats is from a net approval of minus-66 to minus-51, a much more subtle change.
When the pandemic first moved to the forefront of public awareness, we saw big partisan divides on concern about the virus. Perhaps prompted by Trump’s insistence that the effects would be limited or by conservative media echoing that message, Republicans repeatedly expressed much less concern about the virus and much less of a shift in behavior.
The ABC-Ipsos poll shows that concern about contracting the virus has grown among Republicans, with nearly a quarter now saying they are very concerned about contracting it. As importantly, the number of Republicans saying they are not concerned has fallen by 10 points.
Either as a function of that concern or, potentially, driving awareness, the poll measured big shifts in the number of people who’ve changed their behavior in the past week. A week ago, more than half of respondents said they were still working in their usual workplaces. That’s dropped to a third of respondents. There are big increases in the percentages of people who say they’ve canceled dinner plans, vacations or attendance at religious services.
People are increasingly staying home, as officials have hoped. But there is still a divide by party. The Economist-YouGov poll shows that while members of every partisan group express more likelihood to change their behavior than a week ago, there’s still a big gap between Democrats and Republicans.
More than half of Democrats say that they’ve changed some usual behavior as a result of the pandemic. Only about a third of Republicans say they have — though that’s up from a fifth last week.
One reason that views of Trump’s handling of the issue might change is that respondents see his approach to the crisis more favorably. There’s been an increase in the number of people saying that Trump is approaching the risks posed by the pandemic appropriately and a decline in the percentage saying he’s not taking the risks seriously enough. That shift is particularly pronounced among Democrats. A week ago, 7 in 10 Democrats said he wasn’t taking the risks seriously enough. That’s fallen to about half.
At the same time, people increasingly report that they’re paying close attention to news about the virus. Half of both Democrats and Republicans say they’re following the coronavirus news very closely, an increase among Republicans of more than 10 points.
There’s good news for the White House in these polls in two regards. The first is that skepticism of Trump’s handling of the situation has waned at least somewhat. The other and much more important bit of good news is that Americans are actually treating the virus seriously and changing their behavior (willingly or not) as a result.
The best outcome here, of course, is that the effects of the pandemic are limited in scope and duration. Regardless of politics, changes in behavior that will encourage that outcome will probably spur public approval.