By John Whitesides
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are steadily losing confidence in President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with his net approval on the issue that has dominated the U.S. election hitting a record low in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.
The poll taken Tuesday through Thursday, after Trump's COVID-19 infection and weekend hospitalization, found 37% of American adults approved of the president's handling of the pandemic and 59% disapproved.
The net approval rating of negative 22 percentage points is the lowest in the poll dating back to March 2 and has steadily declined over the last 10 days, as Trump's illness and his return to work in the White House dominated news headlines.
Trump's rating on the issue was negative 11 points in a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken Sept. 30-Oct. 1.
Trump has repeatedly dismissed the severity of the pandemic as something that would disappear on its own and chided Democratic rival Joe Biden for wearing a protective mask even though the virus has killed more than 210,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work.
The plummeting approval rating is an ominous sign for Trump, who trails Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Biden has put Trump's mishandling of the virus front and center in his campaign to deny the Republican president a second White House term.
Trump has continued to play down the respiratory disease's dangers even after contracting the illness and has been censured by social media platforms for spreading misinformation about it.
"I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it. This was a blessing in disguise," Trump said in a video posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,331 U.S. adults between Oct. 6-8, and has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
(Additional reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio)