AP-NORC poll: Approval of state-level response to COVID-19 still strong, but slipping

Currently, 51% approve of state governments’ response to the pandemic, down from 63% last month; approval of the federal government remains much lower


Kevin Nunns cleans gym equipment with hospital-grade disinfectant at the Lifting Lab in Shelby on Thursday. Nunns plans to open his gym despite N.C. Governor Roy Cooper’s orders for gyms to remain closed until phase three. Image: Brittany Randolph/The Star via TNS

By Hannah Fingerhut

WASHINGTON — Views of how government at all levels is handling the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. have deteriorated somewhat over the past month, as a growing minority of Americans prefer that states lift restrictions on social and economic life.

Still, Americans remain more likely to approve of the actions of their state government than of the federal government or Congress. At the same time, the new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows ratings of President Donald Trump’s overall performance remain remarkably steady, as they have for much of his presidency.

Among other findings in the survey of American adults, conducted May 14-18:

  • Only about a third of Americans approve of how the federal government is handling the pandemic, while more — roughly half — now disapprove. The balance of opinion has shifted from one month ago, when 4 in 10 approved and about as many disapproved.
  • Meanwhile, approval of how leaders in Congress have responded during the outbreak remains low, with just about a quarter expressing approval and half disapproving. Disapproval is up from roughly 4 in 10 one month ago, shortly after the passage of a well-received $2 trillion rescue plan that sent direct payments to millions of Americans and provided loans to both small businesses and large corporations.
  • The bleak assessment of the federal government and Congress compares with more positive opinions of how state governments are doing dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. Currently, 51% approve of state governments’ response, while 33% disapprove. Still, approval of states has also dipped since April, when 63% approved of the response from state governments.
  • While overall views have soured, state governments still see bipartisan support from Americans who favor COVID-19 restrictions. Among those who support stay-at-home orders, close to 7 in 10 across party lines approve of their state government’s response.
  • But Americans who oppose stay-at-home orders — most of whom are Republican — are far more negative in their assessments, with 56% saying they disapprove of how state governments are handling the outbreak.
  • Stay-at-home orders and other virus restrictions are still supported by majorities of Americans. But there’s been a modest dip in support over the past month, concentrated particularly among Republicans. Just 45% of Republicans now say they favor stay-at-home orders, while about as many (41%) are opposed. In April, 70% of Republicans expressed support. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats are in favor, down from 91% last month.
  • Partisans also diverge significantly over the necessary conditions for lifting restrictions in their area, though there is agreement that people exposed to the virus must isolate themselves if restrictions are to be lifted. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats and 68% of Republicans describe this as essential.
  • But while majorities of Democrats think of many other things as essential for reopening, fewer than half of Republicans describe any other condition asked about in the poll that way. That includes requiring people to wear masks when around others outside of their homes, to keep six feet apart in most places and to have their temperature checked before entering businesses or crowded places.
  • There’s also a significant partisan gap over the importance of a vaccine: 56% of Democrats, but just 36% of Republicans, say a vaccine available to the public is essential before restrictions can be lifted.

The AP-NORC poll of 1,056 adults was conducted May 14-18 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.