Poll: Few Americans Back Trump's Decision To 'Play Down' Coronavirus

President Donald Trump holds a White House news conference Friday. A new HuffPost/YouGov poll indicates 51% of Americans disapprove of the way the president has handled the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images)

Roughly half of Americans believe that President Donald Trump misled the American public about the seriousness of the coronavirus, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, with only about a third saying he did not do so.

The poll was taken following the release of conversations between Trump and journalist Bob Woodward that were taped earlier this year for a book Woodward was writing. According to recordings of these interviews, Trump said in February that the coronavirus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

But in March, speaking about the seriousness of the coronavirus, Trump said, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Those comments reached a slim majority of the public ― 55% said they’d heard of them prior to taking the survey.

Trump defended his comments following the release of the interviews, saying, “I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic.”

Americans said, 51% to 28%, that it was a bad decision for Trump to play down the seriousness of the virus. Views were strongly polarized, but with Trump’s backers less supportive than his detractors were opposed. Voters who supported Trump in 2016 said by a 44-percentage-point margin that it was a good decision for the president to play down the pandemic, while Hillary Clinton voters said by a much broader margin ― 81 points ― that it was a bad decision for him to do so. Non-voters and those who supported a third-party candidate said, by a 26-point margin, that it was a bad decision.

Just shy of half of Americans, 46%, said that Trump’s decision to play down the seriousness of the growing pandemic worsened the U.S.’s response, with 27% saying it didn’t have much of an effect and 13% saying it improved the country’s response. By 51% to 32%, Americans said that Trump misled the public in February and March about the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, 42% of Americans said they approved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, with 51% disapproving. Public opinion about Trump’s handling of the virus, those results suggest, hasn’t changed notably as a result of the latest revelations. In HuffPost/YouGov polls conducted Aug. 27-29 and Sept. 4-7, just before the interviews were revealed, Trump’s approval on handling the coronavirus outbreak ranged between 36% and 44%.

Four in 10 said in the latest poll they were at least somewhat confident that Trump’s statements about the coronavirus were reliable and accurate, with half saying they were not very or not at all confident. A 54% majority said Trump’s messaging on the coronavirus has changed at times, with 30% saying that it has been consistent.

A plurality, 47%, said they thought Trump was taking the coronavirus outbreak less seriously than they were, with 27% saying he was taking it about as seriously as they were and 15% that he was taking it more seriously than they were.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Sept. 9-12 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.