Chattanooga Times Free Press

AP-NORC poll: Amer­i­cans crit­i­cal of Trump’s han­dling of pan­demic

- BY JULIE PACE, HAN­NAH FINGERHUT AND NATHAN ELLGREN

WASH­ING­TON — Less than three weeks from Elec­tion Day, ma­jori­ties of Amer­i­cans are highly crit­i­cal of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s han­dling of both the coro­n­avirus pan­demic and his own ill­ness, ac­cord­ing to a new poll from The As­so­ci­ated Press- NORC Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs Re­search.

The sur­vey also shows that few Amer­i­cans have trust in the in­for­ma­tion the White House has re­leased about Trump’s health. Ini­tial ac­counts of the pres­i­dent’s con­di­tion were murky and con­tra­dic­tory, and the White House is still re­fus­ing to say when the pres­i­dent last tested neg­a­tive for COVID-19 be­fore his in­fec­tion be­came pub­lic.

Trump’s ill­ness and hos­pi­tal­iza­tion has re­fo­cused the fi­nal stretch of the pres­i­den­tial campaign on the pan­demic, which has killed more than 216,000 peo­ple in the United States this year. Demo­cratic chal­lenger Joe Bi­den has sought to make the elec­tion a ref­er­en­dum on the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent’s han­dling of the virus, ar­gu­ing that Trump has mis­man­aged the pan­demic and cost Amer­i­cans lives.

The AP- NORC poll sug­gests many Amer­i­cans agree with that sen­ti­ment, with 65% saying Trump has not taken the coro­n­avirus out­break in the U.S. se­ri­ously enough. The poll, which was taken a week af­ter Trump dis­closed his own COVID- 19 di­ag­no­sis, also shows that 54% of Amer­i­cans dis­ap­prove with how the White House han­dled the episode.

The Rev. Joseph Wise­man, a 49- year- old reg­is­tered Repub­li­can and Bi­den sup­porter from Wi­chita, Kansas, is among them. Wise­man said he was turned off by the pres­i­dent’s “cav­a­lier at­ti­tude” to­ward the pan­demic and what he saw as Trump’s “dis­re­gard for the health and well­be­ing” of peo­ple around him who were ex­posed to the virus at White House events, as well as when the pres­i­dent drove in a ve­hi­cle with Secret Ser­vice agents to greet sup­port­ers dur­ing his hos­pi­tal stay.

Trump spent four days at a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal just out­side Wash­ing­ton, where he was treated with an ag­gres­sive drug reg­i­men. On Sun­day, his doc­tor said he was no longer con­ta­gious, and he’s re­turned to the campaign trail this week, hold­ing ral­lies in battlegrou­nd states across the coun­try.

The pres­i­dent was ea­ger to re­turn to cam­paign­ing in part to send a mes­sage to Amer­i­cans that they should not al­low the virus to con­sume their lives. It’s a mes­sage that has been well-re­ceived by some of the pres­i­dent’s sup­port­ers.

“I think that from the start to the fin­ish that he came through quite rapidly and he’s back out there,” said Jim Gula, 71, a Repub­li­can and Trump sup­porter from Jack­sonville, Florida. “And I think that’s a re­flec­tion on the over­all peo­ple who have come down with a pos­i­tive test.”

The pan­demic up­ended Trump’s plans to spend 2020 run­ning on a strong eco­nomic record, thrust­ing him in­stead into the role of a pres­i­dent gov­ern­ing through cri­sis. He’s re­peat­edly tried to down­play the im­pact of the virus, even af­ter his own ill­ness, and has op­posed some of the more strin­gent safety mea­sures rec­om­mended by his own ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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