POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL

Trump gets ratings bump amid coronavirus crisis

The president's poll numbers are up slightly, but he isn’t galvanizing wide swaths of the country the way previous presidents have in times of crisis.

Donald Trump

After three-plus years of consistently negative approval ratings, President Donald Trump is getting better marks for his handling of the still-fledgling coronavirus outbreak ravaging the nation.

But Trump’s higher job ratings from Americans are just relative: Voters are still mostly split on how he’s handling the pandemic, and the past two weeks have brought only a modest bump in his overall approval numbers, which still show more Americans disapprove of his performance as president than approve.

In a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, a quarter of voters surveyed said Trump is doing an “excellent” job handling the virus, and another 17 percent said he is doing a “good” job. But almost as many, 39 percent, said he’s doing a “poor” job, and 13 percent rate his handling of the crisis as “just fair.”

Those numbers are statistically unchanged from last week’s survey and match the results of other public polls, which show Americans divided along partisan lines in judging Trump’s handling of the virus.

The latest poll numbers come at a pivot point for Trump, who is considering loosening some of the constraints placed on American's public and economic lives to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus — even as public-health officials warn that the U.S. is falling behind in its containment efforts despite the actions already taken. Meanwhile, Americans are growing more supportive of aggressive containment measures like quarantines.

Trump said Tuesday he hopes the economy would resume in large part by Easter, which is April 12.

While Trump and some of his allies are blanching at the growing economic toll of the virus, polls show Americans aren’t worried the government is going too far in trying to contain the virus. On the contrary: Voters say they are more concerned the government won’t go far enough.

According to the latest POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, only 3 percent of voters said the Trump administration is doing too much in response to the virus, compared to 45 percent who say the Trump administration isn’t doing enough. Roughly 4 in 10 voters said the administration is doing the right amount.

"As the coronavirus pandemic continues, voters are almost evenly split on whether the Trump administration is doing the right amount or not enough in response," said Tyler Sinclair, vice president for Morning Consult.

That matches the sentiment in other surveys. About as many Americans in a Monmouth University poll released Monday said the federal government wasn’t doing enough (45 percent) as said the federal government’s response was “appropriate” (47 percent).

Just two weeks ago, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed voters divided evenly over whether they were more worried the government would go too far or not far enough in combating the coronavirus. But Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm that makes up half of the news organizations' bipartisan team of researchers, said in its private polling over the past week that significantly more respondents are worried the government won’t go far enough.

“Last week, public opinion tipped to favoring more restrictions and shut downs,” GOP pollster Bill McInturff wrote on Public Opinion Strategies’ website.

In the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, a big majority of voters said they would be on board with a national quarantine to control the spread of coronavirus, permitting only essential travel such as trips to grocery stores and pharmacies. Nearly 3 in 4 voters would either strongly or somewhat support a national quarantine.

For Trump, the polling amounts to a mixed bag. On one hand, there is a long-duration Gallup poll, conducted March 13-22 — a 10-day stretch beginning the same day Trump declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency. The Gallup poll shows Trump with a 49 percent approval rating overall, equaling a high-water mark, with 60 percent approving of his response to the virus.

Other polls, including the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, show a smaller bump. Trump’s overall approval rating is up just 2 points from last week’s POLITICO/Morning Consult survey, from 43 percent to 45 percent, with a majority, 52 percent, still disapproving of his job performance.

Trump gets mildly positive reviews in other polls for his response to the virus. Monmouth found 50 percent of Americans said he was doing a good job handling the outbreak, while 45 percent said he was doing a bad job. A CBS News/YouGov poll was similar: A combined 53 percent said Trump was doing a “very good” or “somewhat good” job, but 47 percent said he was doing a “very bad” or “somewhat bad” job.

The Monmouth poll also showed a slight uptick in Trump's approval rating, to 46 percent. But Trump still trails former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, in a matchup among registered voters, 48 percent to 45 percent, the poll shows.

While views of Trump and his response fall largely along partisan lines, so does concern about the virus. In the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, a slight majority of voters, 53 percent, said they are “very concerned” about the coronavirus outbreak. But the share of self-identified Democratic voters who are “very concerned” (64 percent) is significantly larger than the percentages of Republicans (46 percent) and independents (47 percent) who said the same.

Democratic voters are also more plugged into news about the virus and the government’s response. Overall, nearly a quarter of voters said the outbreak will have a “major impact” on their vote in the 2020 elections. But twice as many Democrats (32 percent) as Republicans (16 percent) said it will have a “major impact.”

"Week over week, more voters are now saying the outbreak will impact their vote for president, so all eyes remain on the federal government's handling of this virus,” Sinclair said.

The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted March 20-22, as the Senate wrangled over a stimulus package intended to support the economy. Proposals from both parties would benefit both workers and businesses, but the poll asked voters which was more important.

The vast majority, 73 percent, said the government “should provide financial assistance to individual Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, because businesses will benefit from the economic activity” — far more than the 15 percent who said the government “should provide financial assistance to businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, because individual Americans will benefit from the economic activity.”

The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll surveyed 1,996 registered voters via online interviews and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.

More details on the poll and its methodology can be found in these two documents: Toplines | Crosstabs