About half of Americans say they trust the medical advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a one-time staple of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force briefings.
The latest Economist/YouGov data on America’s faith in Fauci comes as the United States’ surging COVID death count crosses 142,000, with no signs of the spread slowing down.
Fauci has faced criticism for his stark assessments of how the coronavirus is impacting America. President Trump recently called Fauci a “little bit of an alarmist” while Fauci himself asserts that he’s a realist.
Fauci has been accused of flip-flopping on some medical recommendations, such as the use of face masks. When COVID-19 cases began increasing in February and March 2020, Fauci and other health professionals advised Americans against wearing masks in order to avoid a shortage of personal protective equipment for front-line workers. He changed his stance shortly after along with other leading experts, including Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell, Fauci said he does not regret advising people against wearing masks in public because he was concerned about saving supplies for medical professionals. “...it soon became clear that we had enough protective equipment and that cloth masks and homemade masks were as good as masks that you would buy from surgical supply stores. So in the context of when we were not strongly recommending it, it was the correct thing. But our knowledge changed and our realization of the state of the outbreak changed,” he said.
Despite the criticism, most Americans still say they trust Fauci’s medical advice. Three in 10 (33%) Americans say they trust Fauci a lot, compared to 21 percent who say they somewhat trust him. About one in 10 (11%) of Americans say they neither trust nor distrust Fauci, compared to 9 percent who say they somewhat distrust him; 12 percent of Americans say they distrust Fauci a lot.
Democrats (56%) are more likely than Independents (26%) and Republicans (17%) to say they trust Fauci a lot. A quarter (24%) of Democrats say they somewhat trust him, compared to 21 percent of Independents and Republicans. The highest distrust rate can be seen in Republicans, with two in 10 reporting that they distrust Fauci a lot, compared to 15 percent of Independents and 2 percent of Democrats.
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are particularly likely to say they trust Fauci a lot. Seven in 10 (69%) of those who choose Biden in the trial heat against Trump say they trust Dr. Fauci a lot, compared to 11 percent of those who say they will vote for Trump in 2020. A quarter (23%) of Trump supporters say they distrust Fauci a lot, compared to 2 percent of Biden supporters.
Methodology: The most recent Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US adult citizens interviewed online between July 19 - 21, 2020. The approximate margin of error is 3.2 percentage points for the overall sample. Samples are weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens.