BOSTON (CBS) – Political pundits are always talking about economic anxiety, with good reason – it is generally regarded as the key factor in any national election outcome.
And with just seven months to go until election day, a new CBS News/YouGov poll of 2,236 U.S. residents (margin of error: +/-2.4%) finds economic anxiety is running high, to say the least.
As of March 31-April 1 when the survey was taken, 45% are very or somewhat concerned that they or someone in their household may lose their job or wages. While more than eight in ten approve of the $2 trillion economic relief package, 57% believe more will be needed.
Whatever other factors contributed to Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, he has made it clear he considers the nation’s economic health to be crucial to his re-election. And with his smaller than normal “rally ‘round the flag” job approval bounce already starting to fade and the worst of the crisis still to come, this new poll sends an ominous political message to Mr. Trump – outside of the diehard true-believers, the public is not buying his recent rebranding as an effective “wartime president.”
Given the grim facts on the ground, it’s no wonder the president and all but the most rabid virus denialists have abandoned the contention that reviving the economy should be prioritized “even if it means more people might be exposed to coronavirus,” as the poll puts it. Only 17% still cling to that fantasy; 83% prefer to battle the virus by “keeping people home and social distancing, even if the economy is hurt in the short term.”
More than three-fourths of those surveyed believe the Trump administration could have done more to prevent the virus damage, but the White House is not the only object of voter scorn; eight in ten believe scientists and medical professionals could have done more, while 84% say the same of state and local officials, despite the high approval ratings some governors and mayors are getting for their handling of the crisis.
Still, by a huge 77-23% margin, respondents reject the president’s claims that local politicians and medical professionals are exaggerating their need for medical equipment and protective gear. Ditto for the president’s insistence that he wants governors to be “appreciative” in exchange for help – 76% say that shouldn’t be a consideration.
And the reluctance of the White House and some Republicans in Congress to use presidential authority to order private industry to manufacture ventilators and protective gear is not shared by the vast majority – a whopping 89% say they favor the use of that power.
When respondents were given a list of adjectives – half positive, half negative – to describe how they feel watching the president’s daily briefings, the two highest-polling answers were “worried” (44%) and “angry” (34%). Even worse, 81% essentially don’t believe he knows what he’s talking about. When they hear him talk specifics, such as possible virus treatments, 47% want confirmation from medical experts before swallowing it, and 34% flat-out dismiss it as “inaccurate or unproven by medical scientists.”
Seven months is a long time; anything can and will happen. Perhaps voters will go to the polls on November 3 with renewed confidence in their safety and economic prospects.
But this new poll is just the latest to document, for now, the collapse of Mr. Trump’s most important re-election argument, and the disbelief greeting his frantic efforts to spin his way out from underneath the rubble.