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Leadership Ratings on Pandemic After One Year

Leadership Ratings on Pandemic After One Year

Story Highlights

  • Governors rated higher than Trump, CDC for pandemic response until January
  • Biden's pandemic response rating surpasses those for Trump, CDC, governors
  • Democratic governors rated better than Republicans for COVID-19 response

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Throughout the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., Gallup has tracked Americans' views of how well various entities are handling it. In general, state governors consistently garnered higher marks than Donald Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until early this year. President Joe Biden has been viewed much more positively than his predecessor for his work on the pandemic.

Communicating a Clear Plan of Action for the Pandemic

Until January, Americans' ratings of U.S. governors were consistently higher than their ratings of Trump and the CDC for communicating a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19. However, since then, Biden has been rated better than state governors and the CDC.

These data are based on responses to a five-point numerical scale measuring agreement that each entity has communicated a clear plan of action for the pandemic. Agreement is signified by the percentage giving a 4 or 5 rating on the scale.

Between June and January, Trump's ratings ranged from a low of 27% agreeing that he was communicating a clear plan for the pandemic to a high of 35%. His last rating was 31%. The CDC's rating has fluctuated from 25% to 37%, with its lowest rating recorded in late January. Biden has registered 42% to 49% ratings for his plan since Gallup first included him in late October/early November.

Meanwhile, state governors garnered majority-level agreement from the public in most months until December, amid sharply surging COVID-19 infections nationwide. Governors' ratings have declined at least modestly each of the past few months, registering 47% in late December/early January, 44% in late January and 42% in February.

Line graph. Americans' ratings of the communication of a clear plan of action in response to the coronavirus by Donald Trump, the CDC, state governors and Joe Biden. Ratings represent the percentages who agree that each has communicated a clear plan. The readings for Trump, the CDC, and state governors began in June and Biden's began in October. The latest reading in February finds 47% agree Biden has communicated a clear plan, 42% say their state governors have and 33% say the CDC has.

Constituents Rate Democratic Governors Better Than Republicans

Since last June, there has been a consistent partisan gap in Americans' ratings of state governors' communication about their COVID-19 response plans. Democratic governors have been rated more positively than Republican governors by margins of three to 20 percentage points.

From mid-June through early January, Democratic governors' ratings ranged from 54% to 61% -- but since late January, they have been below 50%. In contrast, after one majority-level rating last June, less than half of Americans have agreed that their Republican governors have communicated a clear COVID-19 response plan.

Line graph. Agreement from Americans that their governor has communicated a clear plan for COVID-19 response broken out by governors' political affiliation since June. The latest findings from February show 45% Americans agree Democratic governors and 37% of Republican governors have communicated a plan. Democratic governors have garnered higher ratings than Republican governors across the trend.

Ratings of Other Facets of COVID-19 Leadership

Last summer, Gallup also measured Americans' ratings of state governors, Trump and the CDC in three other areas -- whether they care about the safety and health of the community, how well-informed they keep the public about what is going on during the pandemic, and confidence in their ability to successfully manage emerging health challenges.

Americans' ratings of each entity were similar to those for communicating a pandemic response plan. That is, governors were rated the best, with ratings of the CDC and Trump below them, in that order. While an average of 55% of Americans agreed that the CDC cares about the safety and health of communities, far fewer had confidence in the CDC's ability to manage emerging health challenges (41%) or said they were kept informed about what was happening during the pandemic (36%).

Trump's average ratings on these three measures were even worse than the CDC's, with no more than 35% agreeing with each.

Americans' Average Ratings for Donald Trump, the CDC and Governors
% Strongly agree/Agree
Donald Trump The CDC My state governor
% % %
Jun 8-Aug 30, 2020
[ ... ] cares about the safety and health of my community. 35 55 60
Jun 8-Jul 19, 2020
[ ... ] keeps me informed about what is going on during the pandemic. 28 36 52
Jul 20-Aug 30, 2020
I have confidence in the leadership of [ ... ] to successfully manage emerging health challenges. 34 41 49

Trump and Biden Pandemic Approval Ratings

Trump's initial approval ratings for his pandemic response were quite positive, including 60% approving in March, when he declared a national emergency, imposed more travel bans, directed government resources toward vaccine development and signed a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. Yet, by April, Trump's rating on his response to the pandemic had fallen to 50% after he publicly questioned the advice of his administration's medical experts, including the use of masks in public. After asserting he had complete authority over states' coronavirus restrictions, he then reversed course and largely left it to the states to develop their own reopening plans and find medical resources to battle the disease.

By early June, his approval on the coronavirus situation was down to 42% as the number of new cases began to rise, and it fell to 36% by mid-August as Trump continued to dispute guidance from public health officials and suggest the threat from the disease was overblown. His final COVID-19 approval rating, in the latter half of October, was 40% -- and some Trump campaign officials blamed his response to COVID-19 as one of the main reasons he did not win reelection.

Line graph. Americans' approval of Donald Trump's handling of the response to the coronavirus pandemic between March and late October. The initial reading in March was 60% but the final reading was 20 points lower at 40%.

At 67%, Biden's sole approval rating for his response to the pandemic far outpaces all of Trump's ratings.

Bottom Line

Until recently, Americans gave their governors significantly higher ratings than the president and the CDC for their COVID-19 performance. The change is partly due to lower ratings of governors in recent months, and partly owed to Biden's much higher ratings for communication and response than Trump's. Biden's actions since taking office have earned him higher marks for communicating a clear plan on COVID than his predecessor, the CDC and state governors. As the pandemic continues, Biden will surely be judged by how his administration handles it.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.

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