CNN Poll: Most Americans confident government can stop nationwide epidemic, but see local cases on the horizon

CNN’s David Chalian breaks down a CNN poll in which Americans were asked how they feel about coronavirus and the Trump administration’s response to it.

A majority of Americans say they are at least somewhat confident the federal government can prevent a nationwide epidemic of novel coronavirus, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, but only about half say the government has done a good job of containing its spread so far.

Reviews of President Donald Trump’s handling of the outbreak of coronavirus tilt negative, with 48% saying they disapprove and 41% approving.

But the President’s overall approval rating remains exactly the same as it has been in CNN polling since December: 43% approve, 53% disapprove. That continues to include the approval of roughly 9 in 10 Republicans while fewer than 1 in 10 Democrats agree.

The poll was conducted from Wednesday through Saturday, during which the number of known cases in the US grew by the hundreds.

Overall, 49% say the federal government has done a good job preventing the spread of coronavirus, 43% say it has done a poor job. More, 57%, say they are very (18%) or somewhat (39%) confident that the government can prevent a nationwide epidemic of the virus.

When it comes to those traveling to the US from places that have had outbreaks of coronavirus, the public mostly feels the government ought to screen travelers who are symptomatic and allow in those who are not (65%), while 31% say the government ought to block all travelers from areas where there have been outbreaks from entering the US.

A majority of Americans (55%) say it is at least somewhat likely that someone in their local community will be infected with novel coronavirus in the next few weeks.

Residents of the Northeast (65%) and West (59%) are most apt to say the virus will likely be in their communities in the next few weeks, while those in the South (53%) and Midwest (46%) are a bit less likely to say they see a local infection on the horizon.

About 6 in 10 who live in urban areas (61%) or suburban ones (58%) say they think a local infection is likely, compared with just 37% of rural dwellers.

Overall, 68% say they feel prepared to deal with an infection of coronavirus should it strike them or someone in their family, though only about a quarter (24%) say they feel very prepared for such an infection.

Views on all of these questions about the coronavirus outbreak are sharply divided by party.

Assessing the government’s performance, 79% of Republicans say the federal government has done a good job in preventing the spread of coronavirus, yet only 24% of Democrats agree.

And while 79% of Republicans express at least some confidence that the government can prevent a nationwide epidemic of the novel coronavirus, only 41% of Democrats feel the same. That 38-point spread is double the partisan gap on a similar question in a 2014 survey on the Ebola outbreak and 25 points larger than the partisan gap in confidence on the government’s ability to contain an outbreak of the swine flu in 2009.

A partisan divide in views on the government’s handling of any issue is perhaps to be expected in the current political climate. But the poll finds the partisan divide extends to the public’s perceptions of their own preparedness. Republicans are far more apt than Democrats to say they feel “very prepared” to handle a case of coronavirus should it strike them or someone in their family. Among Republicans, 40% say they are very prepared, but that dips to just 21% among independents and 13% among Democrats.

Although the coronavirus outbreak has had a negative impact on the stock market, it doesn’t appear to have moved public opinion on the nation’s economy or Trump’s handling of it by very much.

Trump continues to hold majority approval for his handling of the economy (54% approve), and ratings of national economic conditions are generally positive (69% say conditions are good, 30% poor). But the share saying the economy is in good shape has declined since December, when 76% it was good. That decline comes mostly among independents and Democrats, with the percentage who call the economy good dropping 9 points in both groups.

Favorability ratings for Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the government’s efforts to fight coronavirus, have held about even since last year: 37% have a positive view of Pence, 48% a negative one.

The survey also found 41% approve of Trump’s handling of foreign affairs, and 40% say they approve of his handling of the situation in Afghanistan after the announcement of a peace deal with the Taliban, which could lead to the end of the nearly two-decade long war there.

The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS March 4 through 7 among a random national sample of 1,211 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.