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President Inconsistent On Covid

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Republicans believe Trump over Fox News on outbreak info

West Long Branch, NJ – President Donald Trump’s job rating has ticked down again amid a sense he changes what he says about the coronavirus from day to day. In fact, many Americans characterize some of the president’s treatment and prevention advice as harmful, although Republicans continue to side with him even when major media outlets – including Fox News – differ on the facts. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds widespread concern about the country reopening too quickly rather than too slowly with most Americans prioritizing public health over the economy in lifting current restrictions. Governors continue to get the highest ratings for their actions and opinion about how the American public as a whole is dealing with the pandemic has become much more positive.

The president’s overall job rating has slipped over the past few months, now standing at 43% approve and 51% disapprove. Trump earned a 44% to 49% rating in April and a 46% to 48% rating in March. His February rating, before the coronavirus pandemic spread, was 44% to 50%. Specifically on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, 42% say he has done a good job and 51% say he has done a bad job. His prior ratings on handling the outbreak were 46% good job to 49% bad job in April and a positive 50% good job to 45% bad job rating in March.

“The month to month shifts are well within the poll’s margin of error, but the overall trendline suggests that the public is growing less satisfied with Trump’s response to the pandemic,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

When asked about the advice Trump has given about how to prevent and treat the coronavirus, 42% say it has been harmful, 33% say it has been helpful, and 23% say it is not particularly harmful or helpful. Two-thirds of Republicans (68%) say the president’s advice has been helpful while a similar number of Democrats (72%) say it has been harmful. Among white Americans, those without a four-year college degree are more likely to characterize the president’s advice as helpful (48%) rather than harmful (28%), but white college graduates are more likely to say it has been harmful (54%) rather than helpful (23%).  Among Americans who are Latino, black, Asian or some other race, 49% say the president’s advice on treatment and prevention has been harmful and 21% say it has been helpful.

Most Americans say the president has been largely inconsistent (55%) in his coronavirus press briefings from day to day, while 36% say he has been largely consistent. Majorities of Democrats (85%) and independents (58%) say Trump has been inconsistent, but only 18% of Republicans feel that way.

“It is difficult to look at the briefing transcripts and not see inconsistency from one day to the next. These poll results are just another reminder of how people filter information to reframe some facts and dismiss others in order to maintain their own internal consistency when it comes to perceptions of Trump,” said Murray. 

When presented with a potential situation where the president and CNN provide conflicting information about the coronavirus outbreak, 51% of Americans say they would be more likely to believe the cable network and 38% would be more likely to believe Trump. Another 8% volunteer that they would not believe either source and 2% say they would trust both equally. If conflicting information was presented by Trump and Fox News, 34% of the public would believe Fox and 33% would believe Trump. Another 25% volunteer they would not believe either source and 5% say they would trust both equally.

Republicans are more likely to believe Trump than either cable outlet if they provided conflicting coronavirus information – 82% for Trump to 13% for CNN and 66% for Trump to 20% for Fox News. Democrats are much more likely to believe information from CNN (88%) than Trump (3%) and also more likely to believe Fox News (48%) than Trump (7%), although 39% volunteer that they would not believe the president or Fox. Among independents, more would believe CNN (47%) than Trump (35%) with 13% who would not trust either. Independents are divided on whether they would believe Fox News (34%) or Trump (31%) when they conflict on the outbreak, while 26% volunteer they would not trust either source.

“We asked this question because conservative media outlets such as Fox News reinforced key White House talking points during the pandemic’s early days, but they have occasionally differed on some key points more recently. These poll results may be a warning sign when it comes to retaining their core audience. When the facts are in dispute, the president is always right,” said Murray.

When it comes to reopening the country, Americans are more concerned that states will start lifting restrictions too quickly (63%) rather than not quickly enough (29%). The public prefers that any such decision be based more on public health concerns than economic ones. Specifically, 56% say the more important factor in deciding whether to lift current restrictions should be making sure as few people as possible get sick from the coronavirus. Just 33% say making sure the economy does not go into a deep and lengthy downturn should be more important. Democrats are much more likely to prioritize health concerns (80%) over economic ones (12%) in lifting current restrictions. Independents are also more likely to stress public health (49%) over the economy (36%). Republicans, on the other hand, say preventing an economic downturn (54%) should be more important than preventing the spread of Covid (36%) when making the decision to lift outbreak restrictions.

The Monmouth University Poll also finds that Americans continue to express more satisfaction with their own state than they do with Washington. Just 42% say the measures taken by the federal government to slow the spread of the virus have been appropriate while 45% say they have not gone far enough. Another 10% say they have gone too far. The current poll results are better than April (35% appropriate, 54% not far enough, and 7% too far) and closer to the findings in March (47% appropriate, 45% not far enough, and 6% too far), but the confidence in the federal government continues to lag behind the states.

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans (59%) say the outbreak measures taken by their state government have been appropriate, 22% say they have not gone far enough, and 17% say they have gone too far. The number who say their state actions are appropriate has been steady since the outbreak began (60% in April and 62% in March). The number saying they have not gone far enough has decreased (from 30% in April and 25% in March) while the number saying too far has increased (from 8% in April and 9% in March).

A majority of the public (54%) continues to feel that the federal government is not doing enough to help states that have been hit hard by the outbreak, which is similar to 55% who said the same last month. Just 37% say that Washington has done enough (37% in April) and 5% say it has done too much to help these states (3% in April).

State governors continue to get widespread praise for the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, at 73% good job and 22% bad job. This positive rating is similar to prior polls (72% to 21% in April and 72% to 18% in March). Health agencies in the federal government also get high ratings at 63% good job and 25% bad job. These results have also been stable (66% to 25% in April and 65% to 24% in March).

“People are looking for a steady hand in a crisis. State officials and public health professionals have largely been consistent in their approach to the pandemic. This is one reason why satisfaction with their response has been high and stable throughout, unlike views of the president’s actions,” said Murray.

Opinion on how Congress has handled the outbreak remains divided. Currently, 38% say Congress has done a good job and 47% say it has done a bad job, which is similar to the 41% to 45% rating it received last month. In March, 42% said Congress had done a good job and 37% a bad job. The performance rating for Congress overall stands at 32% approve and 55% disapprove.

Public opinion on media reporting about the outbreak stands at 47% good job and 45% bad job. The media received a 48% good job to 42% bad job rating last month and a 45% to 43% rating in March.

The poll did find one significant turnaround in perceptions of how different groups have handled the outbreak. Currently, 51% say that the American public has done a good job dealing with the outbreak while 33% say it has done a bad job. This finding is much more positive than prior poll results – 38% good job to 48% bad job in April and 38% to 45% in March.

“After a shaky start, a majority of the public now believes their fellow Americans are doing their part to pitch in during the pandemic,” said Murray.

Currently, 33% of the public says the country is headed in the right direction while 60% say it is on the wrong track. This result is similar to last month (30% to 61%). Prior ratings were 39% right direction to 54% wrong track in March and 37% to 57% in February.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from April 30 to May 4, 2020 with 808 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president?

  TREND:May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Jan.
2019
Approve43%44%46%44%43%43%43%41%40%41%40%40%44%41%
Disapprove51%49%48%50%52%50%51%53%53%50%52%54%51%54%
(VOL) No opinion6%6%6%5%5%8%6%6%7%9%8%6%5%5%
(n)(808)(857)(851)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(805)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Sept.
2017
Aug.
2017
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Approve43%43%43%41%39%42%32%40%41%39%39%43%
Disapprove49%50%46%50%54%50%56%49%49%52%53%46%
(VOL) No opinion8%7%11%9%8%8%12%11%10%9%8%11%
(n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(1,009)(805)(800)(1,002)(801)

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job the U.S. Congress is doing?

  TREND:May
2020
April
2020
Feb.
2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Jan.
2019
Approve32%32%20%24%22%23%21%17%19%20%24%23%18%
Disapprove55%55%69%62%65%64%68%71%69%71%62%68%72%
(VOL) No opinion13%13%11%14%13%13%11%13%12%9%14%9%10%
(n)(808)(857)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(805)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Sept.
2017
Aug.
2017
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Approve23%17%19%17%18%21%16%17%18%19%19%25%23%
Disapprove63%69%67%71%72%68%65%69%69%70%68%59%66%
(VOL) No opinion14%14%14%12%11%11%19%15%13%11%13%16%11%
(n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(1,009)(805)(800)(1,002)(801)(801)
  TREND: ContinuedSept.
2016*
Aug.
2016*
June
2016*
March
2016
Jan.
2016
Dec.
2015
Oct.
2015
Sept.
2015
Aug.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Jan.
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Approve15%14%17%22%17%16%17%19%18%18%19%21%18%17%14%
Disapprove77%78%76%68%73%73%71%71%72%69%71%67%70%73%76%
(VOL) No opinion8%9%7%10%10%10%12%11%11%12%10%12%11%11%10%
(n)(802)(803)(803)(1,008)(1,003)(1,006)(1,012)(1,009)(1,203)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,003)(1,008)(1,012)

* Registered voters

3. Would you say things in the country are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

  TREND:May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Jan.
2020
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Right direction33%30%39%37%37%32%30%30%28%31%29%28%29%
Wrong track60%61%54%57%56%56%61%61%62%62%63%62%63%
(VOL) Depends4%5%4%6%6%8%7%6%8%6%4%7%6%
(VOL) Don’t know3%5%3%1%1%4%2%2%2%2%3%3%2%
(n)(808)(857)(851)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Aug.
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Right direction35%35%40%33%31%37%24%32%31%35%29%
Wrong track55%57%53%58%61%57%66%58%61%56%65%
(VOL) Depends7%6%3%5%6%3%7%4%5%4%4%
(VOL) Don’t know3%3%3%4%1%3%3%5%3%5%2%
(n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(805)(1,002)(801)(801)
  TREND: ContinuedAug.
2016*
Oct.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Right direction30%24%28%23%27%23%28%
Wrong track65%66%63%68%66%69%63%
(VOL) Depends2%6%5%5%5%5%5%
(VOL) Don’t know3%4%3%3%2%3%4%
(n)(803)(1,012)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,008)(1,012)

      * Registered voters

[Q4-7 held for future release.]

[QUESTIONS 8 & 9 WERE ROTATED]

8. Have the measures taken by the federal government to slow the spread of the virus been appropriate, have they gone too far, or have they not gone far enough?

     TREND:May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
  Appropriate42%35%47%
  Gone too far10%7%6%
  Not gone far enough45%54%45%
  (VOL) Don’t know2%3%2%
(n)(808)(857)(851)

9. Have the measures taken by your state government to slow the spread of the virus been appropriate, have they gone too far, or have they not gone far enough?

     TREND:May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
  Appropriate59%60%62%
  Gone too far17%8%9%
  Not gone far enough22%30%25%
  (VOL) Don’t know2%2%4%
(n)(808)(857)(851)

10. Please tell me if each of the following has done a good job or bad job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

       TREND:
Good Job

Bad Job
(VOL) Mixed,
depends
(VOL) Don’t
know

(n)
Health agencies in the federal  government63%25%7%4%(808)
   — April 202066%25%4%4%(857)
   — March 202065%24%8%4%(851)
      
President Trump42%51%4%2%(808)
   — April 202046%49%3%1%(857)
   — March 202050%45%3%1%(851)
      
Your state’s governor73%22%3%2%(808)
   — April 202072%21%4%3%(857)
   — March 202072%18%4%6%(851)
      
The media reporting about the outbreak47%45%6%2%(808)
   — April 202048%42%8%2%(857)
   — March 202045%43%10%3%(851)
      
The American public51%33%13%2%(808)
   — April 202038%48%12%2%(857)
   — March 202038%45%14%3%(851)
      
Congress38%47%11%5%(808)
   — April 202041%45%9%5%(857)
   — March 202042%37%10%10%(851)
      

11. Is the federal government doing the right amount, too much, or not enough to help states that have been hit hard by the outbreak?

     TREND:May
2020
April
2020
  Right amount37%37%
  Too much5%3%
  Not enough54%55%
  (VOL) Don’t know4%5%
(n)(808)(675)

12. What should be the more important factor in deciding whether to lift current outbreak restrictions – making sure as few people as possible get sick from the coronavirus OR making sure the economy doesn’t go into a deep and lengthy downturn?

    May
2020
Making sure as few people as possible get sick from the coronavirus56%
Making sure the economy doesn’t go into a deep and lengthy downturn33%
(VOL) Both equally9%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(808)

13. Are you more concerned that states will start lifting restrictions too quickly or that states will not lift restrictions quickly enough?

    May
2020
Too quickly63%
Not quickly enough29%
(VOL) Not concerned either way5%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(808)

14. Would you say the advice President Trump has given about ways to prevent and treat the coronavirus has been helpful, not particularly helpful nor harmful, or has it been harmful?

    May
2020
Helpful33%
Not particularly helpful nor harmful23%
Harmful42%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(808)

15. Has what President Trump says about the coronavirus outbreak in his press briefings been largely consistent or largely inconsistent from day to day?

    May
2020
Largely consistent36%
Largely inconsistent55%
(VOL) Don’t know9%
(n)(808)

[QUESTIONS 16 & 17 WERE ROTATED]

16. If Donald Trump and Fox News gave conflicting information about the coronavirus outbreak who would you be more likely to believe – Trump or Fox News?

    May
2020
Trump33%
Fox News34%
(VOL) Both equally5%
(VOL) Neither25%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
(n)(808)

17. If Donald Trump and CNN gave conflicting information about the coronavirus outbreak who would you be more likely to believe – Trump or CNN?

    May
2020
Trump38%
CNN51%
(VOL) Both equally2%
(VOL) Neither8%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(808)

[Q18-43 held for future release.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from April 30 to May 4, 2020 with a national random sample of 808 adults age 18 and older. This includes 285 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 523 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (RDD sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
28% Republican
38% Independent
34% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
29% 18-34
33% 35-54
37% 55+
 
63% White
12% Black
17% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
69% No degree
31% 4 year degree
  

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs

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