WASHINGTON – Dr. Anthony Fauci is cited most often as the official Americans rely on for information regarding the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.
The study released Wednesday found Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was chosen by 45% of those surveyed, while participants' "own state's governor" was cited by 35%, and President Donald Trump by 20%.
The study was conducted by the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
Fauci, a member of the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, has a long government career that spans back to the Lyndon Johnson administration. The 79-year-old doctor has been one of the most high-profile members of Trump's response to the coronavirus, earning praise and widespread recognition.
Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future, said Americans trust in Fauci may very well come from this experience, as well as his "clear manner."
"If ever there was a crisis where we look to an expert, it is this one where literally our lives can be saved or lost by the need for good information," Cole said. "This is a situation where we need a medical expert, particularly one who has been a leader in infectious diseases for 40 years."
The actions by local and state governments were rated higher at 54% than the federal response, which 39% of respondents rated as poor.
The White House has been criticized for its slow response to the pandemic, shortages in personal protective gear, and lack of widespread testing. The administration and governors have often clashed over the response to COVID-19.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has implored the federal government to help states increase their capacity to test for the virus. His fellow governors have insisted they lack the kits and equipment needed to conduct the tests. He also announced Maryland had purchased 500,000 coronavirus tests from South Korea.
Under a blueprint unveiled Monday designed to help states expand testing and rapid response programs as governors weigh gradually lifting stay-at-home orders, the Trump administration said it would send each state enough tests to screen at least 2% of their residents. Critics say that is too low.
A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll similarly found that Americans by double-digit margins said the federal government is doing too little to deal with the health and economic repercussions of coronavirus.
Additionally, Trump's frequent briefings have often overshadowed the administration's daily coronavirus message. There have also been reports that the White House is looking to scale back the news conferences.
"It is clear to everyone, including leaders of the Republican Party, that after the first week or so, the president's press conferences have been counterproductive to his approval," said Cole, adding that what Americans "wanted was an engaged president demonstrating decisive leadership on the coronavirus. After a week or so, people saw that was not coming out of the briefings."
"Historians will look at the briefings with huge interest and a public stuck at home and hungry for information, as one of the greatest lost opportunities in the history of the Presidency," Cole continued.
Poll respondents who identified politically as "very conservative" depended on Trump the most, by 53%, while less than a majority of those who identified as different political affiliations relied on the president.
Cole described how Trump could gain the trust of more American citizens, including allowing medical experts more camera time at the White House briefings, putting aside partisan rhetoric, and looking at the tone as some of his predecessors during crises, such as "Ronald Reagan after the Challenger crash."
"What is different with regard to the pandemic is the low number for trust for the president. In times of crisis, we have historically looked to the President, any President, as the leader to guide us through. Trump's number's are remarkably low," Cole continued.
The findings from this study are based on an online survey conducted during the week of April 6, using a sample of 1,000 respondents ages 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Colombia from an online panel. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Contributing: Michael Collins, Courtney Subramanian, David Jackson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Public trusts Fauci over governors or Trump, survey says