With the November election 100 days away, more Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction than at any previous point in Donald Trump’s presidency, putting the incumbent in a perilous position as his reelection bid against Joe Biden enters a pivotal stretch. A new poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds Trump’s approval for his handling of the pandemic falling to a new low, with just 32% of Americans supportive of his approach. Even Trump’s standing on the economy, long the high water mark for the president, has fallen over the past few months. Those political headwinds have sparked a sudden summer shift: After spending months playing down the pandemic and largely ignoring the virus’ resurgence, Trump warned this past week that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. After repeatedly minimizing the importance of masks, Trump urged Americans to do exactly that. And after insisting he would hold a large convention in August, the White House scrapped those plans.
Trump’s abrupt about-face underscores the reality of the situation he faces just over three months from Election Day. Even as he tries to refocus his contest with Biden on divisive cultural issues and an ominous “law and order” message, Trump’s reelection prospects are likely to be inextricably linked to his handling of the pandemic and whether voters believe the country will head back in the right direction under his leadership. More from the poll:
- Eight in 10 Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction, more than at any point since Trump took office.
- Just 38% of Americans say the national economy is good, down from 67% in January, before the pandemic.
- Biden has benefited from Trump landing on the wrong side of the public in his initial reactions to the pandemic. For example, 3 in 4 Americans back requiring people to wear masks in public, which Trump initially dismissed.
- As Trump and his administration aggressively try to sell a skeptical public on reopening schools, the poll finds that about third of Americans are opposed entirely to the idea, while close to half say major adjustments to instruction will be required.
- Overall, 38% of Americans approve of Trump's job performance—well within the narrow range that his approval ratings have stayed throughout this presidency, but down slightly from earlier this year before the pandemic. Most Republicans—81%—approve of Trump’s job performance, but just 68% of Republicans support his handling of the pandemic.
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