As the United States faces the greatest national crisis of the presidency of Donald Trump during an election year, the correlation between the public's perception of the Trump administration's pandemic response and his reelection chances is being closely examined.
One way to gauge that perception is polling voters. At earlier stages of the pandemic, President Trump achieved a feat that eluded him throughout his presidency until then.
Polling showed approval numbers above 50 percent for Trump's job performance—in regards to his pandemic response. But as time has passed, those approval ratings dropped.
The latest poll by Navigator Research—an organization that focuses on polling on progressive issues—showed a 10 percent increase in the disapproval rate of Trump's pandemic response. On March 23, 52 percent approved of his pandemic response and only 42 percent disapproved.
The pollsters asked:
"Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Donald Trump is handling the... pandemic?"
In a reversal of fortune, by April 20, only 44 percent approved of the Trump administration's pandemic response and 52 percent disapproved.
Another key indicator looked at the perception voters have of President Trump personally in regards to the pandemic.
Navigator Research asked:
"Please indicate how well each of the following words or phrases apply to Donald Trump's [pandemic] response... : Presidential, Serious, Compassionate, Honest, Competent, Chaotic, Irresponsible, Erratic, Self-absorbed, Unprepared."
Trump saw drops in his public perception under Presidential, Serious and Competent from March to April.
In recent days, President Trump has made calls to end social distancing.
The poll asked voters:
"When it comes to social distancing and the... pandemic, which of the following concerns you more right now?"
The numbers from March to April were fairly consistent with 53-60 percent more concerned social distancing will end too soon, 20-12 percent uncertain what was a bigger concern and only 30-25 percent worried social distancing will go on too long. The on too long percentage matches polls for President Trump's ride or die fans.
But overall, concerns over health outweighed economy across party lines.
Reactions to the poll asked why the pandemic response approval rate of 44 percent was so high.
However in the same poll, Navigator Research asked:
"Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president?"
About the same percentage, 43 percent, approved of Trump's overall job performance.
However his job disapproval rate jumped to 55 percent.
The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic on January 30, 2020. At the time, the United States had 5 confirmed cases.
As of Tuesday, April 21, the United States leads the world in confirmed cases of the viral pathogen with 819,866. The United States accounts for over 32 percent of all cases worldwide.
The death toll in the USA is 44,768, about 25 percent of all deaths. The United States ranks 3rd in population at 331,002,651 people, with over a billion fewer people than both China, 1,439,323,776, and India, 1,380,004,385.
The book The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris is available here.