I'll get to the numbers themselves in a moment, but first, two thoughts about what's going on here: First, a rally around the flag effect is underway. This is a frightening national crisis, filled with widespread and genuinely disconcerting loss of life, uncertainty and hardship. Many people want their president to lead the country to the most successful conclusion possible, so they're rooting for him and giving him the benefit of the doubt. The typical, polarized partisanship of our political moment is somewhat on hold. For now.
Second, he's been a strong leader, especially this week. Once the proverbial switch flipped in Trump's mind that happy talk and boasting wasn't going to pan out -- perhaps after being briefed on this British study -- he's thrown all of his efforts at tackling this threat. His tone has improved dramatically, his substance has been much more on point, and he's doing his best to play nice with Democratic governors and the news media (today's press conference was a bit bumpier). Regardless of (valid and invalid) criticisms of his rhetoric and seriousness in the early days of the emerging pandemic, he's risen to the occasion of late, and people are noticing.
This could all vanish or reverse rather quickly if people decide that the status quo is getting worse, or that the painful disruptions show few signs of receding. Americans could very well grow inpatient and frustrated, and public opinion could take a dramatic turn. But at the moment, a majority of people see what the administration is doing, and approve. First, via ABC News and Ipsos, there's this Coronavirus-specific turnaround in the data:
A majority of Americans now approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey, as the administration has issued stricter federal guidelines in recent days and the president has adopted a more public-facing role in combating the disease. An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday reports that 55 percent of respondents approve of Trump’s management of the public health crisis, while 43 percent disapprove. The latest figures represent a boost in the president’s rating from the previous iteration of the survey, published one week ago, which showed only 43 percent approval for Trump and 54 percent disapproval.
From (-11) to (+12) in one week, a dramatic 23-point swing. Then there are these numbers from Harris and Axios -- which appear to be outliers, but could be the start of a trend -- which show significant gains across the board for the president:
#New National @HarrisPoll (3/17-18),— Political Polls (@Politics_Polls) March 20, 2020
Trump's Approval Rating
Handling COVID: 56%
Stimulating jobs: 60%
The economy: 60%
Fighting terrorism 58%
Foriegn affairs: 52%
Administrating the government: 51%https://t.co/xLRxtvgAf9 pic.twitter.com/YhZjcPldmc
"Wave one" was in the field March 14-15; "wave two" was March 17-18. For what it's worth, FiveThirtyEight gives Harris a C+ in terms of methodology and accuracy. We'll see if other polling series show similarly rosy results for the president. The federal response to the Wuhan Coronavirus has been marred by an inexcusable testing snafu (and overregulation), and Trump's language about the threat did not appear to align with its severity until relatively recently. But with a battle raging, he and his team have stepped up and instilled confidence. Whether those improved fortunes are sustainable depend on a number of factors that are both within and out of Trump's control. Meanwhile, with this tumultuous week drawing to a close, here are a number of stray thoughts and updates about the Coronavirus response:
(1) The private sector has developed the first direct-to-consumer Coronavirus test, tens of thousands of which will be available to purchase starting Monday. A major private sector lab company is also ramping up testing significantly. Here are more positive developments from the US private sector, on drug donation, and emergency job creation.
(2) Take Chinese government claims that their population is recovering rapidly and moving past the crisis with giant boulder of salt (the more credible examples of recovery come from South Korea):
“In Wuhan, officials have tried to make it appear that recovery efforts are going smoothly. But when "central leaders" personally survey disinfecting regimens and food delivery, local officials "make a special effort" for them and them alone...” WELP: https://t.co/Wo2NoU2a8r— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 20, 2020
(3) This Wall Street Journal house editorial says what needs to be said about the sustainability of extreme social distancing measures. They are essential for the time being, in order to 'flatten the curve,' but the public will not tolerate them for more than a few weeks, and the economy cannot survive an extended shutdown. There needs to be a phase two. Here is Dr. Scott Gottlieb's thread responding to the editorial. It's all worth your time as we collectively ponder what comes next.
(4) We've seen the Senate GOP proposal for a massive 'economic interruption' relief package, and I fear that it falls short. Means-testing makes sense in theory, but there's a strong case in favor of just blasting out equal checks to everyone. David French summarizes:
3) A phase-in plan for America's poorest citizens raises the specter of giving less to the people who have the least;— David French (@DavidAFrench) March 19, 2020
4) Universal relief is an act of social solidarity from the government to the citizens when the government is demanding social solidarity from us; /2
7) Universal relief will present a direct contrast to 2008, when all too many Americans felt that the government bailed out those it valued the most; and— David French (@DavidAFrench) March 19, 2020
8) Those who truly don't need the money can/should donate it. Let them direct aid to people they know and love. /end
Let the government tax the checks as income for wealthier people next year. Don't mess around with it now, when time is of the essence.
(5) Serious allegations about possible 'insider trading'-type stock transactions by two Republican Senators in the aftermath of a private Coronavirus briefing must be investigated thoroughly. Sen. Loeffler's defense has been more substantive and energetic than Sen. Burr's. If malfeasance can be established, a public official who moves to secure his or her own personal financial interests in the midst of a national crisis should forfeit his or her position of public trust. Let's see the evidence before railroading anyone, but Burr in particular has a lot to answer for. Relatedly, several observers from across the aisle have looked at similar allegations against Senators Feinstein and Johnson, and found them to be in the clear.
(7) Congress should have a contingency plan in place for secure, remote voting, considering the number of Representatives and Senators who have already been forced to self-quarantine (including two confirmed Coronavirus cases in the House thus far).
(8) I'll leave you with this:
NYT doing PR cleanup for the commie regime that just purged their reporters — gotta own those cons https://t.co/PZlLh2kXa2— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 19, 2020