How are Americans responding to Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis? Here’s what polls show

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Bailey Aldridge
·5 min read
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Polls conducted in recent days provide a glimpse into how Americans are reacting to President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis and whether opinions on the upcoming election have shifted.

The president was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday after testing positive for COVID-19. He’s since been released and is back at the White House, but the status of his condition has been largely kept under wraps, with his doctors and other officials refusing to say much about his health.

New polls released since the public learned of his diagnosis show many Americans don’t think the president took the virus seriously enough or took enough precautions, and many don’t trust information released about his health. Some also show Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s lead in the race may have gotten a boost following Trump’s positive test.

Trump’s precautions

A Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,005 adults found 65% think Trump wouldn’t have contracted the coronavirus if he had taken it more seriously.

The poll was conducted Oct. 2-3 and included 852 registered voters and 596 likely voters, with a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points for registered voters and 4.6 for likely voters.

A CNBC/Change Research poll found that only 38% of “likely battleground voters” think Trump has “personally taken appropriate precautions.” Meanwhile, 75% said the same of Biden.

The poll of 2,167 likely general election voters nationally and 2,688 likely general election voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin was conducted Oct. 2-4. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.11 percentage points for the national sample and plus or minus 1.89 percentage points for the battleground states sample.

Similarly, a Navigator Research poll of 1,011 registered voters from Oct. 2-5 that did not list a margin of error found 58% think Trump caught the virus “due to irresponsible behavior.” Another 28% think it was “due to factors beyond his control.”

The president has repeatedly and publicly downplayed the severity of the pandemic, including after he tested positive. The day he was released from Walter Reed he tweeted “don’t be afraid” of COVID-19.

A FiveThirtyEight analysis, however, found opinions on Trump’s public handling of the pandemic are “baked in,” with poll results showing little change in approval of his response.

Information on his health

Many Americans don’t trust what they’re hearing about the president’s condition, polls found.

Trump has continuously said he is doing well — a sentiment echoed by his medical team and those in his administration. But the days after his diagnosis were filled with conflicting and confusing information about the president’s health.

White House physician Dr. Sean Conley didn’t disclose until Sunday afternoon that the president had received supplemental oxygen and that he was being treated with remdesivir and a steroid — after refusing to directly answer questions about his treatment the day before. He’s also refused to say when the president’s last negative COVID-19 test was, which could provide insight about how far along his illness is.

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll of 1,202 registered voters found 52% don’t trust Trump to give “accurate information about his health and treatment for COVID-19.” Another 39% said they do trust him and 10% were unsure. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

Of those polled, 49% said they don’t trust the White House to give accurate updates while 39% said they do.

Similarly, a Politico/Morning Consulate poll found 55% of voters don’t trust Trump to “accurately depict” his health. The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted Friday and Saturday with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Navigator poll found 56% don’t trust Trump to “tell the truth about his own medical condition.”

Some Americans expressed concern about the campaigning and the upcoming debates.

The CNBC/Change Research poll found 38% of likely battleground voters think the vice presidential debate scheduled for Wednesday should be virtual for safety reasons while 44% don’t think it should be virtual. Additionally, 68% said lawmakers, officials and others who have recently come in contact with the president should quarantine for two weeks.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found about 60% somewhat or strongly agree the presidential debates should be postponed until the president is cleared of the virus and 67% agreed both campaigns should stop holding in-person rallies.

Trump has expressed an eagerness to get back on the campaign trail and to participate in the debates, while Biden has said he’ll listen to health experts about whether it’s safe.

Biden’s lead in the race

An analysis from FiveThirtyEight says it’s still difficult to measure the impact Trump’s diagnosis has on the presidential race. But some polls show Biden’s lead expanding following the news.

FiveThirtyEight shows Biden has a 83% chance of winning the election as of Wednesday, while Trump has a 17% chance. Biden’s chances are up 3 percentage points compared to Oct. 1 while Trump’s are down 3.

A SurveyUSA poll found Biden was leading the race by 8 points after the first presidential debate but before Trump was hospitalized, and Biden was leading by 16 points after the president was taken to Walter Reed — for an average of a 10 percentage point lead.

The poll of 2,000 voting-age adults was conducted Oct. 1-4. The question of who respondents would vote for has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

A CNN poll conducted mostly after Trump’s diagnosis also found Biden’s lead expanded. The Oct. 1-4 poll of 1,205 — including 1,095 registered voters and 1,001 likely voters — has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for the total sample, 3.5 for registered voters and 3.6 for likely voters.

Biden was at 57% to Trump’s 41% among like voters and 56% to 41% among registered voters. That’s compared to 51% of registered voters who favored Biden and 43% who favored Trump in a CNN poll conducted Aug. 28 through Sept. 1.