Joe Biden airs Donald Trump’s audio from Bob Woodward interview with little impact

Linley SandersData Journalist
September 16, 2020, 12:00 PM UTC

Last week, The Washington Post published audio where President Donald Trump told journalist Bob Woodward on-the-record in March that he knew the COVID-19 virus was “more deadly” than the influenza virus while telling Americans publicly that it was not. He admitted that he wanted to “play it down.”  

In the days that followed, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden aired an advertisement highlighting audio from the interview — but a YouGov snap poll shows that while the advertisement is viewed as effective (56%) by most voters, it has done little to impact voters’ consistently negative opinion of Trump. 

The 30-second advertisement opens with a recording of Trump speaking to Woodward on March 19 saying, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.” A voiceover segues in, adding “While Donald Trump was telling America the virus was nothing to worry about, he knew it was deadly.” The video cuts to a recording of Trump from February 7 saying, “It’s also more deadly than your – even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff.” The voiceover closes the segment with, “And now 190,000 Americans are dead, our economy crushed, our kids not safe in school, and Trump knew it all along.” 

The YouGov snap poll asked 1,000 registered voters to watch the video and share their opinions on its tone. All voters were asked to put aside their own political affiliation while evaluating the clip.  

Seven in 10 registered voters (70%) called the advertisement’s tone “negative,” including three in five (60%) Democrats. Though the advertisement is seen as negative across party lines, most voters call it effective (56%) and a plurality (45%) believe its message is honest. Just a quarter of Republicans (27%) call the advertisement effective and 13 percent of Republicans call it honest. 

Most voters (56%) in this snap poll had a negative opinion of President Trump before watching the video — a sentiment that has proven steady in other YouGov snap polls of recent campaign advertisements. After watching the campaign video, negative opinion increased four points among Republicans (9% to 13%), two points among overall voters (56% to 58%), one point among Democrats (92% to 93%), and one point among Independents (62% to 63%). 

While Biden's advertisement appears unable to significantly lower voters’ opinion of Trump, other YouGov data suggests that there is still room for opinion of Trump to improve, meaning Biden may benefit from keeping it steadily low. A late-August advertisement from the Trump campaign highlighting his pardon of Alice Johnson succeeded in increasing positive opinion of Trump by 8 points among Independents and five points among registered voters overall.  

Learn more about YouGov Direct and find YouGov Direct on the App Store and on Google Play    

Related: Voters view Donald Trump’s video about Alice Johnson positively 

Methodology: This article is based on a flash poll of 1,000 registered voters surveyed via YouGov Direct on September 14, 2020 between 11:30 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. This YouGov Direct Poll was weighted according to age, gender, race, education, and 2016 presidential vote. The margin of error is ±3.9%       

Image: Getty