WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has made himself the daily spokesman for the nation’s coronavirus response. Yet few Americans regularly look to or trust Trump as a source of information on the pandemic, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Just 28% of Americans say they’re regularly getting information from Trump about the coronavirus and only 23% say they have high levels of trust in what the president is telling the public. Another 21% trust him a moderate amount.
Confidence in Trump is higher among his supporters, though only about half of Republicans say they have a lot of trust in Trump’s information on the pandemic — and 22% say they have little or no trust in what he says about the COVID-19 outbreak.
But even as many Republicans question Trump’s credibility during the pandemic, the overwhelming majority — 82% — say they still approve of how he’s doing. That’s helped keep the president’s overall approval rating steady at 42%, about where it’s been for the past few months.
Lynn Sanchez of Jacksonville, Texas, is among those who backs Trump despite reservations about his credibility. Sanchez, who identifies as a political independent, said she trusts “only a little” of what the president says about the crisis, but believes he’s “doing the best he can.”
“He’s contradicted his own health experts a couple of times. I believe he gets carried away and doesn’t sit down and think things through,” said Sanchez, a 66-year-old retired truck stop manager.
The survey’s findings underscore Trump’s rock-solid backing from Republicans, who have been unwavering in their overall support throughout his presidency, despite reservations about his credibility and temperament. If that support holds through the November election, Trump would still have a narrow — but feasible — path to victory.
The findings also raise questions about the value of Trump’s daily briefings from the White House during the pandemic — televised events that often paint a sunny picture of the nation’s pandemic response that runs counter to the experiences of many Americans in cities and states hard-hit by the fast-moving virus. While the briefings are the White House’s main vehicle for getting information to the public, they frequently devolve into forums for the president to berate journalists and critics of the administration.
Trump has personally led the briefings for weeks, with a regular cast of public health officials, Cabinet secretaries and Vice President Mike Pence also taking turns updating Americans on the administration’s response to the health and economic crisis.
Many Americans say they wish Trump were listening to some of those experts more as he navigates the crisis. Specifically, 60% think Trump is not listening to health experts enough.
The leading public health officials advising Trump, Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, have advocated for maintaining strict social distancing measures even as the president and some of his supporters agitate to begin reopening the economy. The survey found the vast majority of Americans — 80% — continue to back requiring Americans to stay in their homes, and a majority doubt that it will be safe to ease restrictions soon.
There is no indication that Trump is ready to step away from the daily briefings. He regularly touts their television ratings, one of his favorite metrics for success. And indeed, the briefings continue to be aired at length on major cable news channels each evening.
Still, this moment of national crisis, with more than 45,000 reported coronavirus deaths in the U.S. and millions of Americans losing their jobs, has done nothing to broaden the president’s appeal.
Just 11% of Democrat say they approve of Trump’s job as president. And 84% of Democrats have little to no trust in information the president is providing about the pandemic.
“I don’t believe a thing the man says,” said Goble Floyd, a 70-year-old retiree from Bonita Springs, Florida. “And that’s sad when so many lives are at stake.”
The pandemic has reshaped the landscape for Trump’s reelection prospects in November, when he will face Democrat Joe Biden. The virus’s swift spread across the country has upended the strong economy the president hoped to run on, leading 26 million Americans to file for unemployment.
It could also overhaul what qualities Americans are seeking from their commander in chief.
There are few metrics in which Trump rates well with the majority of Americans. Just 17% of Americans say Trump is highly disciplined. And when it comes to empathy — often an important intangible in presidential elections — 24% say Trump cares about people like them.
Trump’s highest-rated attribute is leadership. According to the survey, 32% of Americans say strong leader is a very good description of the president, along with 18% who say that describes him moderately well.
When it comes to the nation’s response to the virus, Americans are more inclined to trust and seek guidance from their state and local leaders than the president.
About half of those surveyed said they regularly get information from state and local officials and about the same amount say they have a significant trust in that information. And thus far, a majority of Americans — 63% — say they approve of how states are handling the outbreak, up slightly from three weeks ago.