What political impact has President Trump’s COVID-19 infection had?

October 09, 2020, 12:00 PM UTC

President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalization changed relatively little in the presidential contest in this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll. Last week the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden held a eight-point lead among likely voters; this week, it is nine points (51% vs. 42%).  

The President’s bout with coronavirus did, however, bring renewed attention to the President’s handling of the pandemic. This week, evaluations of his handling of the virus are among the worst he has seen all year, with disapprovers outnumbering those who approve by 56% to 38%. 

One might have expected that the President’s diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization to have lessened what has been a clearly partisan split when it comes to personal concern about the virus. The poll was conducted Sunday through Tuesday, while the President was hospitalized through his return to the White House. 

But those who favor President Trump continue to be much less likely to worry about the personal danger of contracting COVID-19 (34%) than those who plan to vote for Biden (80%). In fact, concern about the coronavirus among Trump voters  dropped six points in the last week. 

Republicans still less likely to feel the effects of coronavirus  

The pattern of GOP voters feeling less affected by the pandemic continues in this week’s poll. One in eight Biden voters (13%) say they have been laid off from work because of it, nearly twice as high as among Trump supporters. Close to half of Biden supporters (47%) have a close friend or family member who has been laid off, compared to a third of Trump supporters with that experience.  

There has, however, been a small increase in the percentage of the President’s voters who say they now wear a face mask most of the time, rising six points to 65% in the last week. Still, one in ten of Trump voters claim they “never” wear a mask (just 1% of Biden voters say that). 

Voters expect more senior officials to catch COVID-19 

What voters are more concerned about now is whether more government officials will contract the virus – as positive tests among those close to the President have risen dramatically. The last time this question was asked, only one in four registered voters thought that prospect was very likely. Now that share of the electorate has nearly doubled, though it has risen more among Democrats and Independents than among Republicans. Still, eight in ten Republicans today consider the prospect of more positive tests among government leaders at least somewhat likely. 

Voters are evenly divided on whether or not they are concerned about the proliferation of COVID-19 cases affecting the government’s ability to function properly. Seven in ten Democrats are concerned, compared to just 35% of Independents and 34% of Republicans.  

See the full toplines and tables results from the latest Economist/YouGov poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 registered voters interviewed online between October 4–6, 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 4.5% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty