Many world leaders have seen double-digit polling surges amid coronavirus. Trump isn’t one of them.

“In early April, President Donald Trump’s job approval reached 46 percent in FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregator — its highest level since January 25, 2017, and a 6-point increase since early November. It has since drifted back down to 43 percent. If Trump received any bump from his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, it was unusually small and short-lived.

International comparison is useful here. Leaders in most peer countries saw 10- to 20-point increases in their Morning Consult polling numbers by mid-April compared to a month earlier, when the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Canada’s Justin Trudeau has seen a 16-point bump; Scott Morrison of Australia a 25-point increase; even the largely unpopular French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron has seen his job approval rise 10 points.”

“Democratic and Republican state governors across the US have seen big increases in popularity as well, upward of 15 points in various polls”

“Why has Trump’s approval bump been so small relative to most other leaders at home and abroad?

One theory is that the Trump administration’s late and botched response to the coronavirus has dragged down the president’s popularity. There’s some data behind this intuition: According to two recent polls, 65 percent of Americans say either that Trump did not take Covid-19 “seriously enough at the beginning” or that he was “too slow to take major steps” to address the situation.

But plenty of other leaders have had huge popularity boosts despite their own flailing responses. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s overall favorability is up 27 points despite criticism for his hesitance to push for more drastic measures early in the crisis. The UK’s Boris Johnson, who came under fire for his government’s infamous “herd immunity” strategy in mid-March, has seen an 18-point bump. Even Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose initial response has been viewed as a cautionary tale of what other countries should avoid, saw his administration’s approval rating shoot up from 27 to 71 percent.” 

“it does seem to matter how long that ineffectiveness lasts. A common thread among Cuomo, Johnson, and Conte: Despite fumbling their initial responses to Covid-19, they quickly changed course and began implementing clear, focused public health measures informed by scientific consensus. Voters might forgive an initial display of incompetence in the face of a novel threat if their leaders quickly adapt and steer the ship in the right direction.

Trump, it seems, has not earned much forgiveness. After denying the severity of the outbreak well into March, Trump looked as though he was beginning to change course. But then he reversed once again. He began saying that the cure of social distancing was “worse than the problem itself,” claiming the country would reopen by Easter, and endorsing unproven (and possibly dangerous) therapeutics. Last week, he even suggested that injecting people with bleach might be a potential treatment (seemingly prompting hundreds of calls to poison centers seeking guidance).”

“There’s been a lot of focus on how the Trump administration was technically and strategically unprepared for this crisis — and that’s true. But there’s also a way in which Trump himself was not temperamentally or ideologically prepared for it either. Trump built his political career atop fracture, conflict, and polarization. But he’s just collided with a crisis that demands solidarity, unity, and mutuality.”

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