“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” – Abraham Lincoln.
BOSTON (CBS) – Smart guy, that Lincoln. And President Trump, who has frequently compared himself favorably to Lincoln, would do well to heed his warning.
As we forecast here, Mr. Trump’s daily, nationally-televised campaign to fool people into swallowing his branding as a competent “wartime president” guiding us through the pandemic is a non-starter beyond his most fervent supporters, according to a spate of new polls including the latest CBS News/YouGov survey of 2,025 adults conducted April 7-9. (Margin of error: 2.6%.)
There is the familiar partisan split over the president’s handling of the crisis. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans say he’s doing a very good (57%) or somewhat good (30%) job; 85% of Democrats see a very bad (64%) or somewhat bad (21%) performance.
Independents are split down the middle, 52% saying very/somewhat good, 48% very/somewhat bad.
But when the pollsters asked the “good job” independents why they felt that way, the most popular reason was “he’s holding press conferences every day.” With more than 60% of them saying trust in Trump’s judgment has little or no bearing on their approval, this suggests a sort of halo effect accruing to the president from sharing the podium with public health experts who draw sky-high trust ratings. Nine out of ten Americans across party lines say they trust scientists and medical professionals as sources of medical information about the outbreak; the trust numbers for Trump are Republicans 80% (!), Independents 38%, Democrats nine percent.
Meanwhile, as the White House once again ramps up talk of an earlier re-opening of at least some economic sectors than the public-health professionals deem prudent, the CBS poll shows their rosy vision isn’t selling well. The only demographic groups that think the outbreak will get “better than it is now” are Republicans (56%) and conservatives (60%). Everyone else is persuaded that the crisis will stay the same or get worse, most notably those crucial Independent swing voters (25% stay the same, 37% will get worse).
What’s the bottom line? As always, the president appears to be his own worst enemy. Trust remains high in the medical pros and the Centers for Disease Control (Independents: 76%). But Trump himself is a huge red flag beyond his fan base, something Trump’s GOP allies are reportedly getting worried about.
But it won’t be easy to persuade him. Witness this tweet from Thursday, after the Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal editorial page joined the chorus of briefing critics:
The Wall Street Journal always “forgets” to mention that the ratings for the White House Press Briefings are “through the roof” (Monday Night Football, Bachelor Finale, according to @nytimes) & is only way for me to escape the Fake News & get my views across. WSJ is Fake News!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 9, 2020
“This is a ridiculous tweet,” responded Brit Hume of Trump TV (a.k.a. Fox News). “He could get his views across without bragging, endlessly repeating himself, and getting into petty squabbles with the junior varsity players in the WH press corps. And he could stop talking much sooner to give Pence, Fauci, Birx and Giroir more time. ”
Fox and the WSJ chin-scratchers get what the CBS poll and others are showing – there will be no blustering, lying and bullying his way out from under the grim reality of what’s happening.