Americans trust local governments over the federal government on COVID-19

April 27, 2020, 6:30 PM UTC

Who is America turning to for medical advice during the coronavirus pandemic? In general, the public consistently puts more faith in state and local governments than the federal government in Washington when it comes to handling the crisis.

The latest Economist/YouGov Poll continues that pattern. About two in five (38%) give the federal government excellent or good marks on its handling of the coronavirus, but a majority (55%) say their state and their local governments are doing a good job.

Federal government assessments have a lot to do with partisanship, depending on which party holds the presidency In contrast, state and local evaluations in this poll are less tied to which political party someone favors. 

But, Americans also have very different partisan opinions about from whom they want to get their medical advice. There are only two sources asked about in the poll that majorities in both parties trust: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Democrats are even more likely than Republicans to trust Dr. Fauci and the CDC. One in five Republicans say they distrust the CDC, and 14 percent of Republicans distrust the advice given by Dr. Fauci.

There is a larger political divide about the political leaders who are briefing Americans on the coronavirus outbreak. Republicans trust President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for medical advice more than either Dr. Fauci or the CDC. 

Republicans are dubious about advice from the World Health Organization (from which the President has – at least temporarily – withdrawn US funding) and from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who, like the President, has been briefing the media daily. As for Democrats, they trust those individuals and organizations Republicans don’t.

Two television doctors have also given advice about the pandemic. Dr. Phil McGraw (who is a clinical psychologist, not a medical doctor) has received harsh criticism for some of his statements about the steps taken to combat the virus. His medical advice is mostly distrusted by Americans, though Republicans are as likely to trust as distrust him. That includes those Republicans who describe Fox News—where Dr. Phil’s statements were made—as their main source of news about coronavirus. They also divide evenly.

Mehmet Oz (Dr. Oz) who is a medical doctor and surgeon, suggested a week ago that schools could reopen as a “trade-off” that Americans might consider, getting students in school even though it would increase deaths from COVID-19. He retracted his remarks the next day, saying he “misspoke.” Americans are only marginally more likely to find Dr. Oz’s medical advice trustworthy, though Republicans are more positive. That’s especially true of Republicans who say they get most of their news from Fox News—where Dr. Oz’s statements were also made.

COVID-19: Government Response

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll

Related: 75% of Republicans trust Trump’s medical advice 

Image: Getty