WASHINGTON D.C. (NBC) — Nearly 60% of American voters say they’re more concerned that relaxing stay-at-home restrictions could lead to more deaths from the coronavirus than they’re worried these restrictions could hurt the U.S. economy, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
But while strong majorities of Democrats and independents are more worried about the coronavirus than the economy, Republicans are divided on this question, with almost half of them more concerned about how the restrictions could affect the economy.
The poll also finds a significant change in attitudes about the coronavirus: The percentage of voters saying they’re worried a family member might catch it has increased 20 points since last month’s survey.
And those saying the coronavirus has changed their family’s day-to-day life in a major way has jumped by more than 50 points from the March NBC News/WSJ poll.
Yet so much else has stayed steady in the midst of the pandemic – Trump’s job rating remains unchanged in the mid-40s, a majority continues to disapprove of the president’s handling of the coronavirus, and Trump is still trailing apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the race for the White House.
“We have not seen a change at all [for Trump],” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his colleagues at Hart Research Associates.
But Hart cautions that a long-lasting crisis could change things for the president.
“In every crisis, we go through this coming-together phase. And then we come to the recrimination phase,” he said.
“President Trump faces some tough sledding ahead in the recrimination phase.”
The NBC News/WSJ poll was conducted – April 13-15 – during a national debate over when to reopen the country amid the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 35,000 Americans.
On Thursday, Trump announced federal guidelines that essentially leave it up to the states to decide when to begin pullbacks from stay-at-home orders.
Then, on Friday, Trump tweeted at states with Democratic governors who has instituted stay-at-home orders.
“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” the president said.
In the poll, 58% of registered voters say that what worries them more is that the United States will move too quickly in loosening stay-at-home restrictions, resulting in the coronavirus spreading and more lives being lost.
That’s compared with 32% who are more concerned that the U.S. will take too long in loosening restrictions, which will harm the economy.
McInturff, the GOP pollster, says these numbers represent a “powerful signal” that the country isn’t ready for business as usual on May 1.
But there’s also a familiar partisan divide inside of these numbers: While 77 percent of Democratic respondents and 57% of independents are more worried about the coronavirus than the economy, Republicans are split – with 48% expressing more concern about the economy, and 39% more worried about the coronavirus.
Half of voters say they don’t trust Trump’s coronavirus statements
Also in the poll, 44% of voters say they approve of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, while 52% disapprove.
That’s essentially unchanged from March, when 45 percent gave the president a thumbs up here and 51% gave him a thumbs down.
Trump’s overall job rating stands at 46% approve, 51% disapprove – which is identical to his score in March and is consistent with his numbers over the past two years.
Only 36% of respondents in the poll say they generally trust what Trump has said when it comes to the coronavirus, while 52% say they don’t trust him.
By comparison, 69% say they trust the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC); 66% trust their own governor; 60% trust Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert; 46% trust New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; and 35% trust Vice President Mike Pence.
The numbers for Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, are 26% trust, 29% don’t trust, and 42% who aren’t aware of his coronavirus statements or who don’t have an opinion.
As for the federal government’s response to the coronavirus, 50% of voters say they’re satisfied with the measures intended to limit the disease’s spread, versus 48% who are dissatisfied.
But just 34% are satisfied with the federal government ensuring there are enough tests to limit its spread, and only 34% are satisfied with there being enough medical supplies.
“A sea change” in attitudes about the coronavirus
The NBC News/WSJ poll also shows how the past month has changed Americans’ attitudes about the coronavirus.
In March, 53% of voters said they’re worried that someone in their immediate family would catch the disease. Now it’s 73%.
Also in March, a combined 26% said the coronavirus has changed their day-to-day life in a “very” or “fairly” major way. Now it’s 77%.
And in a CNBC poll conducted in early April – by the same polling firms – 27% said they personally know someone infected by the coronavirus. Now, just more than a week later, it’s 40%.
“Socially and economically, we have seen a sea change in attitudes in just a month,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates.
Biden maintains lead over Trump in White House race
In the race for the White House, the NBC News/WSJ poll shows Joe Biden ahead of Trump by 7 points nationally among registered voters, 49% to 42%.
That’s down from Biden’s 9-point advantage last month, 52% to 43%, though the change is well within the poll’s margin of error.
Looking inside the overall numbers, Biden’s biggest advantages are with African-American voters (where he leads Trump, 85% to 7%), Latinos (60% to 26%), voters ages 18-34 (54% to 31%), women (56 percent to 35 percent) and whites with a college degree (55% to 37%).
Trump’s greatest strengths are with white voters (51% to 42%), men (50% to 41%) and whites without a college degree (60% to 33%).
Among independents, Biden is ahead of Trump by just 1 point, 43% to 42%.
And when the race is reduced to 11 swing states – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – Biden holds a combined 6-point lead over Trump, 49% to 43%.
Biden also leads Trump by 9 points on which candidate better handles a crisis (47% to 38%), and by another 9 points on who would better handle the coronavirus (45% to 36%).
But Trump leads Biden by 11 points on which candidate better handles the economy (47% to 36%).
Pessimism grows about the state of the economy
Yet voters are much more pessimistic about the state of the economy than they were a month ago.
In the new poll, a plurality – 45% – describe the economy as being poor, which is up more than 20 points since March.
That’s the highest percentage of respondents calling the economy poor in the NBC News/WSJ poll since 2012.
Thirty-one percent rate the economy as being “only fair,” and a combined 22% say it’s either “excellent” or “good” – down 25 points from last month.