A plurality of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s handling of COVID-19

Linley SandersData Journalist
May 15, 2020, 6:53 PM GMT+0

About half of Americans (49%) now disapprove of how President Donald Trump is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trended data from The Economist/YouGov Poll conducted weekly from February 1 to May 12 indicates that Trump’s approval rating for handling of COVID-19 outbreak remains slightly underwater. This week, just 45 percent approve of how the president is handling the coronavirus — a number that stabilized in early April after a brief approval bump in March, and now mirrors the president’s overall job approval ratings.

Republican approval of how Trump is handling the coronavirus crisis has remained steady. Since March, at least four in five Republicans have expressed approval for how Trump has addressed the pandemic. When The Economist/YouGov began measuring GOP approval on COVID-19, about three-quarters (75%) approved. This week, it’s nearly nine in 10 Republicans (87%) who approve.

The President’s disapproval numbers on handling COVID-19 have increased as more Americans have formed an opinion on the topic. In early February, about three in 10 Americans (29%) responded that they were uncertain whether they approved or disapproved of Trump’s performance on the pandemic. This week, just 7 percent of Americans have no opinion.

The increased number of opinions have not favored the president.

While Republican disapproval of how Trump is handling coronavirus remains relatively low this week (12%), it’s double the number who disapproved at the beginning of the crisis (6%). Democrats’ disapproval has increased 30 percentage points (51% disapproval to 81% disapproval.) For Americans overall, disapproval has jumped 20 percentage points since the crisis began.

Disapproval jumped for overall and for Democrats in late-February. Around that same time, Trump led briefings where he downplayed the severity of the virus, saying: “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero” and “[the virus is] going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear.”

Despite the split on how Trump is handling the COVID-19 crisis, his overall job approval numbers have risen slightly. Since mid-March, they have hovered around 46 percent approval and similar disapproval (49% this week), which is a shift from the wider chasm usually shown between those numbers. For the first time since he took office, Americans are closely divided on Trump’s overall performance.