BOSTON (CBS) – The power of the right-wing propaganda machine to create an alternate reality for its audience is manifest in a new CBS News/YouGov survey of 2,000 Americans (margin of error: +/-2.7%).
Halfway through a pandemic-ravaged spring marked by soaring infection and mortality and a string of falsehoods and rumor-mongering from President Trump, confidence in his handling of the outbreak has slipped from 53% in March to 43% now, with independents deserting him in droves.
A paltry 38% say they still trust Mr. Trump to “provide accurate information about the coronavirus or what to do during the outbreak,” a number driven by the 85% of Republicans who say they buy what he’s selling. “In contrast,” note the pollsters, “six in 10 Americans say they trust their state’s governor, a view that cuts across party affiliation.”
And that same number, 38%, now say they don’t trust information provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s top advisor on contagious disease. (The survey was taken May 11-13, which only partially includes the latest spasm of Fauci-bashing within the Fox News/Breitbart/Rush Limbaugh Trump World echo chamber.
If you ever wondered what our country would look like if the politicizing of information into partisan silos continued unabated, you now have your answer.
But the frantic White House spin about the virus being under control so far shows no sign of being able to dissaude Americans of the gravity of the threat.
Asked a grim question – “what is the largest number of fatalities you think could still represent a successful effort by the U.S. against this outbreak” – 41% said “there’s already too many.” And only 33% are buying Trump World conspiracy theories about the number of deaths being over-inflated by officials.
Americans generally believe in redemption, and love comeback stories. For all of the angst over missed signals and failure to act against Al Qaeda threats by President George W. Bush and his predecessors, the public rallied strongly behind Bush’s leadership in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities.
The same could happen for Trump if he abandons the denial and diversionary tactics that have sent trust in him plummeting. But that U-turn has to happen now, and there’s no sign it’s even under consideration.