State Watch

Governors in all 50 states get better marks than Trump for COVID response

A sweeping survey of more than 22,000 voters in all 50 states found that most say their governor is doing a better job than President Trump in handling the coronavirus outbreak. 

The poll, conducted by researchers at Harvard, Northeastern University and Rutgers, found voters are more likely to have high levels of trust in their state and local governments than in the White House or Congress. 

Overall, 44 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, while 40 percent disapprove.

But on a state-by-state basis, respondents said they approve of the job their governors are doing to respond to the outbreak more than they approve of the job Trump is doing in every state and the District of Columbia.

The broadest gaps between a governor’s approval ratings and Trump’s were in two liberal states where Republican governors have won high marks. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan each have approval ratings of 80 percent, while just 38 percent of people in those states approve of Trump’s response.

“If you think about this in terms of the credibility of the messenger, you basically have a Republican president telling people that they should get back to regular business. Who is going to be more credible to counter-argue that — a Democrat who has a partisan interest in disagreeing with the president, or a Republican?” said Matthew Baum, a public policy and global communications professor at Harvard and one of the study’s lead authors. “The governors are the ones who are seen at the helm, much more than the White House.”

In Ohio, 83 percent of voters say they approve of the job Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has done to combat the virus, while 51 percent say the same of Trump’s response. In Kentucky, 81 percent like the job Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has done, compared to 51 percent who said the same of Trump.

Governors in California, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia all recorded approval ratings in the 70s. Only two governors — Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) — have approval ratings below 50 percent, though they still received higher marks than Trump.

Several GOP governors who moved slowly to follow their colleagues in shutting down beaches or closing bars also have generally lower approval ratings. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy all have approval ratings under 55 percent — low compared to many of their faster-acting peers.

“The governors who are most closely aligned with the least proactive policies are paying a price for that, because it’s out of touch with their citizens,” Baum said.

Trump’s response is rated highest in Wyoming, where 59 percent say they approve of his response to the virus, and in West Virginia, where his rating stands at 57 percent. Trump’s approval rating stands at 55 percent in Alabama, Idaho and Nebraska.

His worst rating is in the District of Columbia, where just 28 percent approve of the job Trump has done. Trump’s approval ratings are under 40 percent in some of the country’s bluest states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. 

Perhaps most troubling for Trump’s reelection hopes, his approval ratings are also low in the swing states that sent him to the White House in 2016.

Just 36 percent of Michigan respondents said they approve of Trump’s response, compared with 63 percent who said the same of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). In Pennsylvania, 40 percent approve of Trump’s response, compared with 62 percent who approve of Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) response. And in Wisconsin, only 39 percent like Trump’s response, compared to 58 percent who approve of the job Gov. Tony Evers (D) has done.

Trump’s approval rating on the pandemic response is under 50 percent in other critical states like Florida (47 percent), Georgia (47 percent), Iowa (46 percent), Minnesota (42 percent), North Carolina (47 percent), Texas (44 percent) and Virginia (44 percent). 

The poll also found broad, bipartisan support for even the strictest measures aimed at stopping the pandemic, which has sickened more than a million Americans and killed more than 60,000.

More than 90 percent of voters said they somewhat or strongly approve of asking people to stay home, restricting international travel and closing schools.

Eighty-three percent said they approve of measures requiring businesses other than grocery stores and pharmacies to close — an order that is actually harsher than even the strictest closure rules in place across the country, which still allow businesses like restaurants to be open for take-out. 

And though vocal protests have sprouted up in state capitals across the country demanding an end to the stay-at-home orders, few voters seem to agree. Just 18 percent said the country should reopen and resume business activity immediately or in the next two weeks, including only 29 percent of Republican voters and 9 percent of Democrats.

The survey was conducted April 17-26.

“There are really high levels of trust in public health officials, experts, doctors and hospitals, and those are the folks that are advocating these measures most strongly,” said Baum. “The measures that experts are advocating are persuasive to citizens who trust those experts more than they trust the people who are advocating quick reopening.”

Americans are most likely to say they trust hospitals and doctors or scientists and researchers to do the right thing to best handle the coronavirus outbreak. A whopping 89 percent say they have a lot of or some trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do the right thing, while 51 percent say the same of Trump. 

The president’s near-daily briefings on the coronavirus and the federal response have become a major source of information for Americans across the political spectrum. Forty percent of survey respondents, including half of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats, say they have gotten news and information related to the outbreak from Trump’s briefings, which are no longer held with regularity. 

Thirty-seven percent said they had gotten outbreak information from both CNN and Fox News in the past 24 hours, while 19 percent said they had tuned to MSNBC for their information. 

The outbreak has also disrupted a broad swath of American life. More than a third of respondents said they or someone in their household has had to start working from home. Nearly a third have had a school or university closed. About 20 percent said they or someone in their home had to take a pay cut or reduced hours at their job, and another 20 percent said they had been laid off or lost their job. More than half, 55 percent, said the coronavirus outbreak had disrupted their lives a lot or a great deal.

The poll, conducted by the COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States, surveyed 22,912 people across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margins of error vary by state, though the national margin of error stands at 0.6 percent.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Kristi Noem Pandemic poll Ron DeSantis Survey

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