Culture Magazine

Public Perception of the Trump Administration's Handling of the Evolving Coronavirus Crisis

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
Shibley Telhami, Stella M. Rouse, How Are American Views of the Coronavirus Crisis Evolving as It Intensifies?, Lawfare, March 25, 2020. The authors polled nationally representative of 2,395 Amreican adults from March 12 to March 20.
A plurality of respondents said they are unsatisfied with the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus (47 percent) while 42 percent said they are satisfied, and 10 percent said they are neither satisfied nor unsatisfied. As expected, there is a huge partisan divide, with 81 percent of Democrats saying they are unsatisfied, and 79 percent of Republicans saying they are satisfied. A slight majority of independents (51 percent) say they are dissatisfied, and 29 percent satisfied, with the Trump administration’s handling.
However, there was a small shift in attitudes over that period. The authors conclude:
These trends show that, as the crisis persists, more Americans are worried, but also slightly more Americans are satisfied with the administration’s handling of the crisis, transcending the partisan divide. At the same time, the lack of trust in President Trump has remained high, even increased. How does one explain the increase in American satisfaction—even if most Americans remain unsatisfied?
There are likely two principal reasons. First, the administration did move to announce some dramatic actions during this period—on March 13, Trump declared a national emergency; on March 14, the administration said that it would ban travel from the United Kingdom and Ireland; on March 16, the White House issued guidelines to Americans urging them to avoid bars and restaurants, to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people, and to work from home and engage in homeschooling; and on March 18, the administration closed the U.S.-Canada border to nonessential traffic.
Second, as the crisis intensified, and Americans measurably became more worried—the president even called himself a “wartime president”—one might expect some rallying around the flag, even in a polarized time. In fact, the surprise here is not that there is some effect but that the effect seems relatively small in comparison to other crises: President George W. Bush, who had a contentious election in 2000, had an approval rating as low as 51 percent divided along partisan lines before the 9/11 attack; immediately after, his approval rating spiked to 90 percent.
Still, the full scale of the coronavirus crisis remains unknown, and, after announcing dramatic steps during the nine-day period of our poll, the president recently signaled he may soon change course. There is nothing we see in the poll to suggest that Americans will come together behind Trump’s handling of the crisis.

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