President Trump may test negative for COVID-19, but it continues to affect the election

October 19, 2020, 7:00 PM UTC

President Donald Trump may have recovered from his personal bout with COVID-19, but Americans still are not confident of his handling of the coronavirus. 

In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, majorities disapprove of how President has handled the outbreak, view his hosting of what became a super-spreader event to announce his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court as a bad idea, and don’t even trust White House doctors to give accurate information about the President’s condition.  

The poll, conducted Sunday through Tuesday, after the President’s Saturday rally at the White House and as President Trump returned to the campaign trail, did not find voters especially thrilled with the prospect of the return of in-person campaigning. Registered voters are evenly divided about Joe Biden’s in-person campaign activity, but by a wide margin believe the President should not be resuming in person campaigning.  

Majorities of the President’s supporters would like to see both men back on the campaign trail, while Biden supporters say in person campaigning isn’t necessary – just 7% of them believe the President should be back campaigning in person. 

Many of them aren’t sure that the President has fully recovered from his bout with the virus. The vast majority (85%) of those who believe the President has not fully recovered say he should not be holding in person campaign events now. Among Biden voters who think this, the percentage rises to 92%.  

Trump’s handling of coronavirus continues to rate poorly 

Americans have consistently viewed the President’s handling of the virus outbreak negatively. Recent events may have hardened that opinion: in this week’s poll, 39% approve of how the President handled the outbreak, but 56% disapprove. The rating of the federal government’s management of this crisis is even lower (only 31% say its performance has been excellent or good), and trails the rating Americans give to their state governments (44% excellent or good) and local administrators (46% excellent or good) for their management of the outbreak. 

All that gives Biden an edge on this issue. Though responses are clearly partisan, there is more confidence in how the former Vice President will handle the coronavirus than there is in the President’s management. 

 

In similarly good news for Biden, when it comes to the economy, arguably the President’s strongest issue area, there is little difference this week in perceptions of what will happen if either Biden or Trump is elected in three weeks. In each case, as many voters say they believe the economy will get better as think it will get worse. 

Coronavirus continues to hit Democrats closer to home 

The Rose Garden event naming Barrett, held less than a week before the President’s own COVID-19 diagnosis and his admission to Walter Reed Hospital (we don’t know exactly when the President was infected), possibly infected multiple attendees with COVID-19. It is now regarded by Americans as having been a bad idea. One in five of the President’s voters criticize it, along with nine in ten Biden voters. 

Many are still concerned that they are not getting the right information from the President’s doctors. While more than four in ten (44%) say they trust the doctors to give accurate information about the President’s condition, a majority of voters (57%) do not. 

While most Americans don’t have a close friend or family member who have faced the virus personally, just over a third (39%) have a close friend or family member who has tested positive for the disease, and 15% have a close friend or family member who has died from it.  

Democrats have been far more affected than Republicans, however: Democratic voters are twice as likely as their Republican counterparts to know someone who has died of COVID-19. The lack of a personal connection means that even the President’s illness has not made Republicans more fearful about the virus. While 82% of Biden voters are personally worried about contracting COVID-19 (with 29% very worried), only 40% of Trump voters (half the percentage for Biden voters) are worried, and just 10% are very worried. 

Related: Amy Coney Barrett: A qualified but divisive Supreme Court nominee 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s 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 11 - 13, 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% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty