- The overwhelming majority of voters are alarmed about the coronavirus crisis and for all twelve items we tested, at least 78 percent of voters report being either very, somewhat, or a little concerned.
- Voters are most concerned about the lack of adequate coronavirus testing with 50 percent reporting that they are “very concerned”
- Voters also report high levels of concern about President Trump and the Republican Party’s efforts to cut the social safety net in the midst of this crisis with 45 percent very concerned that the Supreme Court will strike down the Affordable Care Act and 48 percent concerned about the administration’s plan to remove 700,000 people from nutrition assistance programs.
The coronavirus pandemic has no clear end in sight. Trump has dragged his heels and even played favorites when doling out aid to hard-pressed governors. Testing kits remain in short supply, and no good infrastructure exists to implement wide-scale testing. Nevertheless, Republicans have continued to try to cut apart the already threadbare social safety net.
In an April 2020 survey, Data for Progress sought to gauge how voters have greeted these developments. We asked voters 12 questions and then provided them four response options: “very concerned,” “somewhat concerned,” “a little concerning,” and “not at all concerned.” These questions covered a range of topics. For instance, we asked voters about Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, including his delayed response, decision to send medical supplies to China, and his failure to make adequate testing available. We also probed attitudes toward some of the other policies the Trump administration and Republican Party are pursuing at present, such as removing 700,000 people from food assistance programs as well as a Trump-backed lawsuit that could result in the elimination of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If Trump gets his way, these policy changes will devastate Americans already hit hard by a worsening economic situation. We also looked at voters’ attitudes toward Trump’s attack on the idea of conducting elections via vote-by-mail.
What we found is that voters are overwhelmingly concerned about the ongoing crisis generally and Trump’s handling of it more specifically. Across every question we surveyed, at least 60 percent of voters find the issue either somewhat or very concerning. Overall, 50 percent of voters find the lack of ample coronavirus testing to be very concerning, and an additional 21 percent of voters find it somewhat concerning. Indeed, there’s a fair bit of clumping in responses, where survey results are similar across all questions.
Looking at topline responses, 69 percent of voters report being at least somewhat concerned about the removal of 700,000 people from food assistance programs, Trump’s decision to send medical supplies to China, Trump’s slow response to the pandemic, and the protracted legislative debate in March that delayed the enactment of a coronavirus relief bill by several days. (This finding suggests Democrats, particularly in the Senate, may have less bargaining power over Congress’s coronavirus response than many progressives assume.)
Furthermore, 68 percent of voters are either very or somewhat concerned about Trump’s failure to expand testing. Sixty-six percent are either very or somewhat concerned about both Trump picking fights with governors––most notably, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI)––and the Republican lawsuit that could strike down the ACA, gutting, among several other things, protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
A similar number of voters—65 percent—report being either very or somewhat concerned about Trump’s refusal to order the production of medical supplies, and his opposition to vote-by-mail. Slightly fewer—60 percent— report being either very or somewhat concerned about the Trump administration’s decision to dissolve the White House pandemic response team in 2018 and Dr. Anthony Fauci’s acknowledgement that early lack of testing amounted to a failure.
In this next chart, we break out levels of reported concern across a series of measured demographic categories, and according to partisanship. Women reported a slightly higher level of heightened concern than men; black voters are very concerned at a somewhat higher rate than their white peers. Seventy-seven percent of self-identified Democrats report that they are very concerned about a lack of testing while only 22 percent of Republicans feel the same. This may be a signal that Trump’s repeated insistence that the testing situation is perfect, and the dangers of the virus overstated, has shaped perceptions of the gravity of the crisis in a profound way.
This next chart depicts demographic and partisan breakdowns of answers to a question aimed at gauging voters’ attitudes about Trump’s personal behavior—namely, picking fights with governors. The fact that 53 percent of women are very concerned about this, compared to only 40 percent of men, is an especially noteworthy finding. Here, opinions are largely correlated with partisanship: 72 percent of self-identified Democrats are very concerned, compared to 48 percent of self-identified independents, and 21 percent of self-identified Republicans.
The final chart depicts responses to the question about the possible elimination of the ACA. Conservatives began challenging the ACA in court almost immediately after it became law in 2010. In March, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a third major challenge to the law. While the Court hasn’t yet scheduled oral arguments in this case, the New York Times reports that “under its ordinary practices, arguments would be held in the fall and a decision would land in the spring or summer of 2021” which means that, if Republicans win the case, people would be tossed off of their insurance after the election, potentially with a Democrat in the White House.
We found that voters are similarly concerned about this possibility as they are about Trump’s immediate response to the pandemic. The one striking departure, however, is that Republican voters are significantly less supportive of their party on this issue: 23 percent of them are very concerned, 22 percent are somewhat concerned, and 19 percent a little concerned–-thus, in total, 64 percent of Republicans reported some level of concern about the current policy course the Republican Party is pursuing.
These results cut against the conventional wisdom Trump will benefit from a “rally around the flag” effect. Most voters are very concerned about the Trump administration’s response to the crisis, or its lack thereof. As Brian Beutler argues, Trump has made a habit of “heap[ing] congratulations upon himself and threaten[ing] to harm citizens whose governors don’t also praise him.” Most voters find this alarming, as they should. There is thus a chance for the Democratic Party to present itself as a compelling alternative, one that can ease the anxiety nearly all voters are experiencing today.
On April 6, 2020, Data for Progress conducted a survey of 2643 likely voters nationally using web panel respondents. The sample was weighted to be representative of likely voters by age, gender, education, urbanicity, race, and voting history. The survey was conducted in English. The margin of error is ± 1.9 percent. You can download a summary of the message test here.
Charlotte Swasey is the Vice President of Data and Polling at Data for Progress. Follow her on Twitter @charlotteeffect.
Ethan Winter is an analyst at Data for Progress. Follow him on Twitter @EthanBWinter.