New UMD Critical Issues Poll Reveals American Attitudes on Response to and Fears of COVID-19
American opinions about the threat posed by COVID-19 and the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic shifted measurably over a nine-day period as the crisis intensified, but not nearly enough to reduce stark political polarization, according to the results of a new .
The measured attitudes and changes in attitudes over a nine-day period, from March 12-20, among a nationally representative sample of 2,395 adult Americans.
Nearly half of respondents (47%) said they are unsatisfied with the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 42% said they are satisfied, and 10% said they are neither satisfied nor unsatisfied. There is a deep partisan divide with 81% of Democrats saying they are unsatisfied and 79% of Republicans saying they are satisfied. A slight majority of independents (51%) say they are dissatisfied, and 29% satisfied.
Over the nine-day period, there was small but measurable change in attitudes. The dissatisfaction in the administration’s handling of the coronavirus threat decreased from 49% in the first three days to 45% in the final three days. This appeared to hold across political parties.
“Over the 9-day period of the poll, during which the coronavirus crisis grew more serious, we were also able to measure increasing public concern about the threat the crisis poses to people personally and the United States generally,” said Shibley Telhami, Director of the UMD Critical Issues Poll. “This concern was matched by a slight drop in public dissatisfaction with the Trump administration handling of the crisis, as new dramatic measures were announced. Still, those expressing dissatisfaction outnumbered those who expressed satisfaction, as the crisis failed to transcend the strong partisan divide."
Overall, 56% of Americans are either somewhat worried or worried a great deal about the threat the virus poses to them personally and 77% are worried about the threat to the U.S. as a whole. Over the nine-day period, these worries increased substantially in both categories. Those who said they are worried about personal threat went from 51% to 62% and those worried about the threat to the United States went from 73% to 82%.
As other polls have found, Republicans are less worried about both threats: 44% said they are worried about the threat to them personally, compared with 68% of Democrats, and 53% of independents. Further, 68% of Republicans are worried about the threat to the U.S., compared with 86% of Democrats. However, as with the rest of the population, the number of Republicans worried about the threat to themselves and to the U.S. increased over the nine-day period, going from 38% to 49%, and 62% to 74% respectively.
Confidence in Trump’s truthfulness remained low and worsened somewhat during the period the poll was conducted. Overall, 45% of Americans say that Trump never tells the truth while 20% say he tells the truth “some of the time.” Meanwhile, 24% believe he tells the truth “most of the time,” and 10% say he tells the truth “all of the time.” More people said the president never tells the truth in the last three days (46%) than in the first three days (42%).
“The coronavirus pandemic is an evolving event and so are the public's opinions about levels of concern and how the federal government is responding,” said Stella Rouse, Associate Director of the UMD Critical Issues Poll. “Findings from this poll indicate that public attitudes can shift in a short amount of time and also indicate that Americans can simultaneously hold some contradicting views; support for the Trump administration's response to the crisis, while at the same time not having a lot of trust in President Trump to tell the truth. As the crisis further evolves, it will be interesting to see if public opinion continues to change.”
about how Telhami and Rouse interpret the poll’s findings in a new Lawfare article.
The poll also probed other domestic and foreign policy issues, analysis of which will be released in the coming weeks.
Methodology: The survey was carried out March 12-20, 2020 online from a nationally representative sample of Nielsen Scarborough's probability-based panel, originally recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of adults provided by Survey Sampling International. The poll was conducted among a national poll of 2,395 respondents, with a margin of error of +/- 2%. Overall, the sample was adjusted to reflect population estimates (Scarborough USA+/Gallup) for Americans. The survey variables balanced through weighting were: age, gender, race/ethnicity, household income, level of education, census regional division, and political party affiliation.