Trump Gets Thumbs Down From US Public on Virus Response

President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force at the White House on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CN) – As more and more Americans are stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak, a new survey shows most of them think the pandemic is a big threat to the economy that President Donald Trump hasn’t taken seriously enough.

Additionally, most U.S. adults also think the media has covered the virus at least somewhat well, according to a concurrent Pew Research Center survey also published Wednesday.

Surveying 8,914 adults between March 10 and March 16, researchers found that 70% of respondents viewed the coronavirus outbreak as a major threat to the economy, and 70% also said that the media has covered the outbreak at least somewhat well.

In times of crisis, the public defers to government and public officials for guidance. Among several officials and agencies, President Donald Trump fared the worst in the Pew survey, with a 38% plurality indicating no confidence in his response to the outbreak.

Further, 52% of respondents say the president has not taken the pandemic seriously enough. Only 24% indicated high confidence in his actions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scored the highest marks among the American public. Only 15% said the agency president has not taken the pandemic seriously enough and 40% were very confident in its response to the outbreak, compared to 43% who were somewhat confident. State and local officials were second in the list with 24% who indicated high confidence and 49% who indicated moderate confidence.

Vice President Mike Pence, appointed by Trump to lead the White House coronavirus task force, fared only slightly better than the president in the survey. While 22% of respondents said they are very confident that Pence is doing a good job on the issue, 28% say they had no confidence in his handling of the outbreak.

Based on the polling data, Americans’ top concern about the outbreak is the economy as workers have become displaced through work-from-home policies, reduced hours, or in some cases, layoffs. Only 4% of respondents felt that the coronavirus would not impact the economy.

Second in respondents’ list of concerns was the health of the U.S. population, with 47% who view the virus known as COVID-19 as a major threat and 45% who said it is a minor threat to public health.

A slim majority (50%) of respondents felt that the outbreak was a minor threat to their day-to-day lives, and 51% felt that the virus was a minor threat to their personal health. A 43% plurality said the coronavirus would affect their personal financial situation.

However, the data revealed that an overwhelming majority of Americans acknowledged that the outbreak would have an impact on their health and finances.

Just within the last week, these public concerns have risen. Between March 10 and March 16, major concern for the U.S. economy rose from 65% to 77%. Those worried about public health rose from 42% to 55%, and concerns also rose for changes in daily life and personal finances. Worries about personal health rose from 24% to 30% between March 10 and March 13, but fell 1% to 29% by Monday.

In addition to government officials, the public also relies on news and media for information during national emergencies. Pew researchers found that Americans are mostly confident in the media response to the COVID-19 outbreak, with some caveats.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents said that they have followed coverage of the coronavirus at least fairly closely, and 70% overall said that the media has covered the crisis at least somewhat well.

However, a 48% plurality of respondents indicated that the media has at least slightly exaggerated the risks of viral outbreak, while only 8% felt that the media did not take the crisis seriously enough or not at all. Only 30% felt that the media accurately portrayed the emergency.

Expanding on potential media narratives, researchers asked respondents for their take on how the coronavirus came about. A 43% plurality said that they thought the virus came about naturally. However, a small but distinct 23% said they thought COVID-19 was created intentionally in a laboratory setting. One-quarter of respondents said they were unsure how the virus came about.

This was slightly more likely among Republican respondents, who were evenly split between a natural occurrence (37%) and a laboratory creation, whether intentionally or by accident (37%). Though a smaller percentage of Democratic respondents (21%) thought COVID-19 was created in a laboratory, a 52% majority of them thought it was a natural occurrence.

In line with several of Pence’s statements throughout the last week on COVID-19, a 49% plurality of respondents felt that scientists would develop a vaccine within a year, or possibly longer. Democratic respondents were slightly more likely to say the same at 54%, compared to Republican respondents at 44%.

Overall, the data indicated that Americans are most concerned the coronavirus will cause great damage to the economy, and with good reason.

After days of falling stock indexes with some occasional spikes thanks to currency injections from the Federal Reserve, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had plummeted more than 9% by Wednesday afternoon, falling below 19,827 points – where it was when Trump took office in January 2017.

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