Americans’ reactions to President Biden getting COVID-19

Linley SandersData Journalist
July 28, 2022, 8:50 PM GMT+0

Last week, President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19. Biden, who is vaccinated and double-boosted against the coronavirus, reportedly only experienced mild symptoms from the virus — but his age (Biden is 79 years old) did lead to initial questions about whether he would experience more serious side effects from the illness. On Tuesday, the president tested negative on more than one test and has said he is “feeling great.”

In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, Democrats (88%) and Republicans (89%) are similarly likely to have heard “a lot” or “a little” about Biden contracting COVID-19. There also is a similar level of awareness of his positive test last week among people who cite MSNBC (92%), CNN (90%), or Fox News (89%) as their primary cable news source.

Three-quarters of Americans (75%) said they were “not very concerned” or “not at all concerned” that Biden getting COVID-19 could prevent the U.S. government from functioning properly. About one-quarter of Americans (26%) were concerned about this, with more Democrats (30%) than Republicans (20%) saying they are worried. A similar question asked in an Economist/YouGov poll conducted in October 2020 — a couple of weeks after then-President Trump got COVID-19 — found that 47% of registered voters were concerned that “politicians” getting coronavirus could prevent the U.S. government from functioning properly. At that point, 53% were not concerned.

Most Americans (55%) say they trust Biden's physicians to provide accurate information about his medical condition, with Democrats (87%) more trusting than Independents (45%) or Republicans (30%). Among registered voters, the numbers are similar: 56% of registered voters trust Biden’s doctors, as do 89% of registered Democrats and 29% of registered Republicans. A similar Economist/YouGov question asked weeks after Trump got COVID-19 found that 48% of registered voters said they trusted Trump's physicians to provide accurate information about his medical condition. Republicans (91%) were more trusting of Trump’s doctors than were Independents (49%) or Democrats (13%).

There are some broader worries that Biden’s age and overall health could affect his ability to fulfill his duties as president. About two in five Americans (42%) say Biden’s health and age “severely limit” his ability to do the job, while one-third (32%) say they have “little effect” and 14% say they have no effect at all. Democrats (15%) are much less likely than Americans overall to say Biden’s age and health severely limit his abilities. Most Democrats (54%) say they have little effect and 23% say they have no effect.

–Kathy Frankovic, Taylor Orth, Rory Shiner, and Carl Bialik contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on July 23 - 26, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll.

Image: Getty