Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the country's top experts on infectious diseases, has been a regular presence at President Donald Trump’s daily coronavirus press briefings. The overwhelming majority of Americans who followed news about him this past week – across the political spectrum – approve of his performance.
Yet Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has reportedly become the target of criticism over the past 10 days from supporters of President Trump, including what The New York Times called “an online conspiracy theory that he is mobilizing to undermine the president.”
A Yahoo News/YouGov poll conducted March 25 to 26, in the midst of the reported criticism, shows the recent disparagement has gained little traction with most Americans. The large share of Americans following news about Fauci – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike – remains overwhelmingly positive about his performance.
In the past week, two-thirds of Americans (66%) said they had heard, read or saw “a lot,” “some” or “a little” about Fauci, a level of awareness just shy of national leaders like Mitch McConnell (73%), Chuck Schumer (70%) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (73%). And more than a third said they had read, heard or seen “a lot” (34%) about Fauci in the past week – a number exceeded only by Trump (61%) and Cuomo (38%).
Yet if anything, Democrats were more likely than Republicans during this period to have heard from Fauci. Four out of five Democrats (82%) reported they heard, read or saw something about Fauci, compared to 67 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Independents.
More to the point, Fauci made an overwhelmingly positive impression among Americans who followed news about him. Four out of five rated Fauci’s performance during the coronavirus crisis as excellent (49%) or good (31%), while just 16 percent rated it fair and only 3 percent said it was poor.
Fauci’s 80 percent positive marks put him far ahead of Trump (44%), Vice President Mike Pence (49%) and other political leaders. Only Cuomo’s excellent or good score (69%) came anywhere close.
Perhaps most importantly, the positive numbers were nearly identical among Americans across the political spectrum. Among those who had seen or heard news of Fauci, his “excellent” or “good” rating was only a percentage point higher among Democrats (85%) than among Republicans (84%). Just 15 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans rated Fauci negatively. Fauci’s rating was slightly lower among Independents – 74 percent positive, 26 percent negative.
The same pattern held for the high number who gave Fauci an “excellent” rating – it was only slightly higher among Republicans (53%) than Democrats (51%) and slightly lower among Independents (46%).
None of the political leaders can match Fauci’s lopsided positive ratings among all partisans. In fact, Trump, Pence, McConnell, Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Vice President Joe Biden all receive very high negative ratings from opposite-party partisans. Only Cuomo comes close to matching Fauci’s cross-party appeal, earning a net positive rating – 55 percent positive, 45 percent negative – from Republicans who reported exposure to news about him.
If we compute, for each person, the percentage who saw, heard or read news about them and rated them positively, Trump does get a higher positive score (84%) than Fauci (56%) among Republicans – mostly because far more Republicans reported some exposure to news about Trump (97%) than about Fauci (67%). However, among Republicans who recalled reading, hearing or seeing news about both Trump and Fauci last week, the ratings were nearly identical: 85 percent positive, 15 percent negative for Trump; 83 percent positive, 17% negative for Fauci.
So again, unlike the president, vice president and the congressional leaders of both parties, Fauci continues to impress Americans of all political stripes. These opinions may change, of course, but as of this past week, the overwhelming majority of Americans were not buying whatever criticism was coming Fauci’s way.
Methodology: This Yahoo! News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,579 U.S. adult residents interviewed online between March 25-26, 2020. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US residents based upon their age, gender, race, education, and voter registration. The margin of error (MOE) for estimates based on the full sample was 3.1 percent.