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Democrats Say The Worst Of The Coronavirus Is Yet To Come. Republicans Say The Worst Is Over.

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

So far, Americans have largely supported using social distancing to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. According to a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll published this week, most Americans agree that it’s necessary to wear a mask, stay at home when possible, avoid gatherings and keep 6 feet away from others in public. And while Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say these measures are important, sizable majorities in both parties still agree that they are necessary. But while Americans are mostly on the same page about current social distancing measures, there are also signs that they increasingly disagree about where the crisis is headed, with Democrats saying the worst is yet to come and Republicans saying the worst is behind us.

According to a CNN poll released this week, nearly three-quarters of Democrats said the worst of the crisis is still ahead of us, while only about a quarter of Republicans said the same. This marked a 15 percentage-point drop among Democrats since CNN last asked the question in April, and a 44-point drop among Republicans. A YouGov/Economist poll also found a similar divide this week; 58 percent of Democrats said the pandemic is going to get worse compared with only 20 percent of Republicans. (The pollster included a third choice, “We are currently in the worst part of the pandemic,” which just over 20 percent of both Democrats and Republicans chose.) And a daily tracking poll conducted by Navigator Research also found that between mid-April and early May, the share of Americans who thought the worst was yet to come declined sharply. However, that number has been ticking back up again since May 4, which may reflect increased concern that the virus will spread as more states begin to ease restrictions on businesses and public gatherings.

The polls this week also show that Americans are adjusting their expectations about when the need for social distancing is likely to end. According to the Washington Post/University of Maryland poll, two-thirds of Americans think that it will be at least the end of July before people can safely gather in groups of 10 or more, up from 45 percent who thought so a month ago. This month’s total includes 80 percent of Democrats and 54 of Republicans. And this week’s YouGov/Economist poll found that a 47 percent plurality — including a third of Republicans and almost two-thirds of Democrats — believe it will be at least September before it is safe to end social distancing measures.

Concerns about catching the virus have stayed fairly consistent over the month of May so far. According to FiveThirtyEight’s coronavirus poll tracker, the share of Americans who say they are “somewhat” or “very” concerned that they or someone they know will get sick stayed mostly steady at about 68 percent.

And the share of Americans who say they’re concerned about the virus’s impact on the economy has also stayed about the same — hovering at around 87 percent — for the past six weeks.

The share of Americans who approve of Trump’s handling of the virus response, however, has declined about 4 points over the past month, though in the shorter term his rating remains essentially unchanged, with 43.3 percent approving of the job he’s doing handling the pandemic this week and 43.5 percent approving last week.

Attitudes toward Trump’s handling of the crisis are, expectedly, very partisan, with a majority of Republicans approving and a majority of Democrats opposed. Feelings seem to be more mixed about leaders outside the federal government, however — according to a new Pew Research poll, state and local officials, on average, continue to enjoy more bipartisan support than Trump. However, Republicans appear to be souring on local and state officials’ work faster than Democrats are. For instance, since March, the share of Republicans who think their local elected officeholders are doing a “good” or “excellent” job has declined by 12 points, while the share of Democrats who say the same has remained unchanged at 66 percent. Likewise, Republican approval of the job state officials were doing declined by 12 percentage points, while Democratic approval dropped by only 5 points. Additionally, Republicans, who were more likely than Democrats to rate public health officials such as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention favorably in March were less likely to do so now. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans said health officials are doing a “good” or “excellent” job, down 16 points since March, while about three-quarters of Democrats felt health officials were doing a good job in both polls.

However, at this point, the majority of Americans are not yet frequenting public places — despite growing disagreement on where the coronavirus crisis is headed next. A Morning Consult poll conducted last week asked Americans about whether they’re going to public places and socializing with others, and it didn’t find much of a partisan gap in reported behavior. So for now at least, it seems like many Americans are staying put, although that might change in the coming weeks.

Other polling bites

  • According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll, 71 percent of voters — including 58 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats — said that the president and vice president ought to wear face masks in public places when they travel. Trump recently failed to wear a mask during a tour of a mask production facility in Phoenix, and Vice President Mike Pence didn’t wear one when visiting a coronavirus testing site at the Mayo Clinic last month, although he later said he should have (he did wear one when visiting a ventilator factory in Indiana a few days later).
  • A YouGov/CBS News poll found that Americans were evenly split on whether they thought the new coronavirus was “something from nature” or “created by people, on purpose,” with about two-thirds of Republicans saying it was manufactured and over two-thirds of Democrats saying it occurred naturally. Scientists have not found evidence that the virus was created.
  • Half of Americans said they would be “somewhat” or “very” likely to use a cell phone-based contact-tracing system to determine if they had come into contact with someone who was diagnosed with the coronavirus if the system were established by the CDC and public health officials. But the other half of respondents said they wouldn’t use such a system, according to an Ipsos/Axios poll. And if the effort were spearheaded by cell phone or internet providers, major tech companies, or the federal government, only about a third of Americans said they’d be likely to use it.
  • An SSRS/CNN poll conducted last week found former Vice President Joe Biden with a 5-point lead over Trump nationally, but in 15 battleground states, Trump led Biden 52 percent to 45 percent. The poll did not break out voter preference by battleground state, however; it sampled people in 15 battleground states1 and reported the results in aggregate. That makes it hard to know in which states Trump may have an advantage.
  • According to polling from the Levada Center, an independent pollster in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings have fallen to 59 percent, the lowest they have been in more than six years.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 43.6 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52.0 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -8.4 points). At this time last week, 43.3 percent approved and 51.4 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -8.1 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 44.3 percent and a disapproval rating of 51.4 percent, for a net approval rating of -7.1 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 7.7 percentage points (48.9 percent to 41.2 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 7.9 points (48.5 percent to 40.6 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 7.8 points (48.6 percent to 40.8 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.

CORRECTION (May 15, 2020, 10:01 a.m.): A previous version of this article reversed President Trump’s job approval numbers: 43.6 percent of Americans approve of the job he’s doing and 52.0 percent disapprove, not the other way around.


FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast: Does The U.S. Have A Coronavirus Recovery Plan?

Footnotes

  1. Defined as the states that were decided by 8 points or less in 2016: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Dhrumil Mehta is a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight focusing on politics.

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