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Americans Increasingly Dislike How Republican Governors Are Handling The Coronavirus Outbreak

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, governors have generally received better marks for the way they’ve handled the crisis than President Trump has. However, new polling suggests that may be changing, especially for Republican governors in states where the number of coronavirus cases has spiked in recent weeks.

Gallup recently found that Americans in the 26 states governed by Republicans are souring on their leaders’ approach to the public health crisis, while sentiment remains steadily positive among residents of the 24 states governed by Democrats. In fact, over the past month, the share of respondents who agreed that their governor cared about the safety and health of their community fell by 8 points, from 61 percent to 53 percent, in states where a Republican is governor; opinion in Democratic-run states hovered around 65 percent, despite some movement week to week.

And on the question of how clearly governors were communicating their plans to address the coronavirus, the GOP also got low marks. Among respondents in Republican-run states, just 43 percent said their governor offered a clear plan, down from 54 percent about a month ago. Meanwhile, 58 percent of respondents in Democratic-run states said that their governor was communicating clearly, which was nearly identical to the share who said so in early June.

Gallup isn’t the only pollster to find GOP leaders getting lower scores for the way they’re dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Change Research’s polling of six battleground states found especially poor numbers for Republican governors in two states where the number of coronavirus cases surged in the first half of July: Florida and Arizona. In Change’s polling, 57 percent disapproved of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s handling of the outbreak, and a whopping 71 percent disapproved of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s response. Additional polling in Arizona and Florida second these findings. OH Predictive Insights found that opinion of Ducey’s approach went from a net positive in June (59 percent approved, 37 percent disapproved) to a net negative in July (35 percent approved, 63 percent disapproved). Likewise, surveys by CBS News/YouGov found 53 percent of Floridians said DeSantis was doing a somewhat or very bad job and 62 percent of Arizonans said the same of Ducey.

Not every Republican governor’s pandemic-response ratings are underwater, however. Some, in fact, have sterling numbers. In late June, a survey from the University of New Hampshire found Gov. Chris Sununu had a 78 percent approval rating for his handling of the virus. Considering Sununu is up for reelection this November, his response could help him win another two years in office. Meanwhile, in Ohio, 77 percent of respondents in a late-June Quinnipiac University poll approved of Gov. Mike DeWine’s performance. And in Massachusetts, another late-June survey from Suffolk University found 81 percent approved of Gov. Charlie Baker’s handling of the outbreak.

What these three governors have in common is the coronavirus hasn’t been surging in their states recently as much as it has in Arizona or Florida, but that doesn’t explain everything. Texas’s case rate has also shot up since late June, but Gov. Greg Abbott has gotten better marks than either DeSantis or Ducey. A CBS News/YouGov survey, for instance, found that public opinion was split as to how well he was handling the crisis: 50 percent said he was doing a good job and 50 percent said he was doing a bad job. And in another early-July survey from The Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler, 49 percent approved of Abbott’s response while 40 percent disapproved (10 percent said they neither approved nor disapproved).

Some Democratic governors have middling approval ratings, too. Change Research’s early-July survey found, for instance, that 56 percent approved of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’s handling of the pandemic, while 55 percent approved of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s responses. And just 51 percent approved of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s efforts. Wolf got some better numbers from a Monmouth University poll released earlier this week, in which 67 percent said he’d done a good job handling the coronavirus, but Cooper seems to be stuck around 50 percent. A late-June survey from East Carolina University found 53 percent approved of his response.

But on the whole, Americans have a somewhat more favorable view of the way Democratic governors have handled the pandemic than the way Republican governors are responding. In late June, a consortium of universities conducted a poll of governors’ handling of the coronavirus across all 50 states and found that the median approval rating for Democratic governors was about 55 percent, compared to 49 percent for Republican governors. And some Democratic executives have sky-high numbers for how they’ve handled the pandemic. A late-June poll from Siena College gave New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo a 76 percent approval rating for his handling of the coronavirus, while a Garin Hart Yang Research Group survey found that 69 percent of Kentucky voters approved of Gov. Andy Beshear’s response.

Of course, as president, Trump’s response to the coronavirus has continued to garner the most attention, but unfortunately for him, public opinion of his efforts has only worsened. About 58 percent now disapprove of his handling of the pandemic while just 38 percent approve, according to FiveThirtyEight’s coronavirus polling tracker.

Other polling bites

  • Trump wants to reopen schools in the fall, but a Politico/Morning Consult survey found that 53 percent of Americans are either somewhat or strongly opposed to fully reopening schools for in-person instruction. Just 38 percent supported the move. Additionally, 50 percent also opposed a full reopening of colleges and universities while just 40 backed that idea. Respondents also reacted very poorly to the Trump administration’s plan to reduce federal funding for schools if they didn’t completely reopen, with 65 percent opposed to such a policy.
  • In a similar vein, 71 percent of parents told Axios/Ipsos that sending their kids back to school poses a moderate to large risk. Though the poll had a small sample size (219 parents), it did find that parents of color were more worried than white parents, and parents who identified as Democrats were more concerned than their Republican counterparts.
  • In general, though, as a new NBC News/SurveyMonkey weekly tracking poll showed, nonwhite Americans are more worried about the coronavirus than white Americans. The survey found that 79 percent of people of color and 65 percent of white people were either very or somewhat worried about exposure to the coronavirus. Additionally, 56 percent of nonwhite Americans said they’re very worried that the outbreak will negatively affect their household finances compared to only a third of white Americans.
  • White House officials have criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leader in the country’s COVID-19 response, but two surveys suggest that he remains a trusted source of information for many people. A new poll from The Economist/YouGov found that 52 percent of Americans trust his medical advice to some extent, while only 20 percent don’t trust him. Similarly, the survey found that 55 percent of Americans have a favorable view of him and only 25 percent have an unfavorable view. And a Politico/Morning Consult survey found that 62 percent of voters rate Fauci’s handling of the coronavirus as excellent or good compared to just 36 percent who said the same about Trump.
  • Washington, D.C.’s NFL team will be changing its name, but a new Morning Consult survey found that 49 percent of Americans think the franchise should keep the nickname. And only 29 percent said the team should change the name while another 22 percent said they didn’t know or that they had no opinion. The move was most popular among the youngest respondents (those born between 1997 and 2012) and black respondents — a plurality of both groups supported changing the name. However, many still think the outgoing name and logo are offensive. Of the eight professional and college team nicknames the poll tested, only the MLB’s Cleveland Indians and their partially retired logo, which features a cartoon caricature of a Native American, was rated as more offensive.
  • Regional barbecue is a source of eternal epicurean debate, but a new Huffpost/YouGov survey may finally settle which BBQ style is Americans’ top choice: Texas-style barbecue sauce led the pack with 22 percent. Meanwhile, there was a three-way tie for second place as Carolina style, Kansas City style and Memphis style got 10 percent each, while the only other named option — Alabama style — got just 3 percent. An additional 10 percent of respondents picked “another style,” while the remaining respondents weren’t sure (25 percent) or said they didn’t like barbecue (10 percent).

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 40.3 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 55.6 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -15.2 points). At this time last week, 40.1 percent approved and 55.9 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -15.8 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 40.8 percent and a disapproval rating of 55.1 percent, for a net approval rating of -14.3 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 8.3 percentage points (49.0 percent to 40.7 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 9.0 points (49.4 percent to 40.4 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 7.9 points (48.5 percent to 40.6 percent).

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.