Americans believe President Donald Trump minimized the risks of the coronavirus outbreak early in 2020, as recorded in interviews Bob Woodward had with the president for Rage, Woodward’s latest book. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, Republicans divide relatively closely on this question, while Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly agree the President downplayed the virus.
Was it the right thing to do? By more than four to one, the public disapproves of Trump’s decision to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus in February (78% vs. 18%), including more than a third (37%) of Republicans. However, most Republicans, who are consistently less concerned about contracting COVID-19, approve of the President downplaying concern about the virus. The president continues to receive a low rating for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Among registered voters, he trails his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, on the issue. More than half (55%) of registered voters say they are uneasy about the president’s approach to handling the pandemic, while 39 percent are confident. Opinion of Biden on this issue is mixed, though more positive than Americans’ assessment of the President: 45 percent are confident about Biden’s approach, while 44 percent are uneasy.
Americans accept Woodward’s reporting regarding the president’s downplaying of the coronavirus threat, but as for all the claims in the book – and the interest in the book itself – the public exhibits clear partisan reactions. Republicans overwhelmingly believe what’s in the book isn’t true, while Democrats are convinced the material in the book is likely true.
Half the public claims to have no opinion, favorable or unfavorable, about Woodward himself, despite his nearly 50 years as a prominent journalist and multiple best-selling books. Democrats with an opinion are favorable towards Woodward by nearly five to one (84% favorable vs. 16% unfavorable); by four to one, Republicans are not (21% vs. 79%).
Democrats are more than four times as likely as Republicans to say they want to read Rage, but just as many Democrats don’t want to read Rage as want to.
Did the President make the right decision to cooperate with Woodward? As this poll indicates, Democrats are happy the President made the decision to be interviewed on tape, while more Republicans say the President should have refused to be interviewed on tape than say he did the right thing.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between September 13 - 15, 2020. This sample was 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. The margin of error is approximately 3.4% for the overall sample.