WASHINGTON — A new poll paints a bleak picture of Americans’ views toward the coronavirus pandemic.
The poll, from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, finds that the public’s trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S.’s top doctors, like Anthony Fauci, is rapidly dropping, particularly among Republicans. It also finds that a sizable percentage of Americans still hold a number of incorrect beliefs about the pandemic, and that less than half of Americans surveyed would want to get vaccinated against Covid-19 if a vaccine was available before November.
The poll, which was conducted from Aug. 28 to Sept. 3, provides a striking glimpse into how the U.S. government’s chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic is sowing distrust among both Republicans and Democrats. It also reveals growing partisan divides about reliable sources of health information.
Public confidence in the CDC has dropped 16 points since April, according to the new poll. The agency has been widely criticized both by public health advocates, who want the agency to more frequently stand up to political pressure, and by Trump, who has accused it of being overly cautious and thwarting the U.S. recovery from the ongoing pandemic.
Trump’s critiques hit harder: Republicans’ confidence in the CDC has dropped 30 points since April. Democrats’ trust in the CDC has dropped less precipitously, from 86% to 74% over the same time period.
The CDC and Director Robert Redfield aren’t the only ones facing a crisis of confidence. The U.S. public’s overall trust in Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s top infectious disease doctor, has declined 10% since April. Republicans have particularly soured on him: His favorables dropped nearly 30% among Republicans since April. Democrats’ confidence in Fauci, meanwhile, has increased from 80% to 86% since April.
The public writ large still trusts Fauci to provide reliable information more than it trusts the CDC, the White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, President Trump, or former Vice President Joe Biden, according to the new poll. Trump is the least trusted out of the four: Just 40% of those surveyed said they trust Trump to provide reliable information about the pandemic. Fifty-two percent trust Biden.
People in the U.S. also still hold a number of glaring misconceptions about the coronavirus, the KFF poll found.
More than half of Republicans surveyed still believe that hydroxychloroquine, the malaria treatment touted by Trump, is an effective treatment for Covid-19, despite a plethora of studies debunking that claim. Twenty percent of people, regardless of party, also believe that wearing a mask is harmful for your health, despite a dearth of evidence supporting that conclusion. Fourteen percent falsely believe there is a cure for Covid-19.
The findings come amid growing concern from the American public over the politicization of the U.S. coronavirus response.
Roughly 40% of Americans surveyed in the new KFF poll said that both the FDA and CDC were paying too much attention to politics.
Sixty-two percent of Americans are also worried that the FDA will rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine due to political pressure, according to the new KFF poll. Those findings track closely with a STAT-Harris Poll survey, which found that 78% of Americans worried the Covid-19 vaccine approval process is being motivated more by politics than science.
KFF’s poll also found that a large portion of Americans would decline a vaccine if it was approved before November.
The KFF poll found that only 42% of participants surveyed would want to get vaccinated if a vaccine was approved, and offered for free, before the November election. Republicans were more skeptical about the potential vaccine than Democrats and independents: 60% of Republicans surveyed said they would not want to get the vaccine if it was approved before November.
Participants in the KFF poll were less interested in getting a vaccine than those surveyed in the STAT-Harris poll. STAT’s poll found that 62% percent of participants surveyed said they were likely to get vaccinated if a vaccine was approved before the election.
The new KFF poll comes less than two months before the election. KFF’s poll also casts doubt on the theory that the election will solely be a referendum on Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
While 36% of Democrats said the coronavirus was the most important issue for them in the November election, just 4% of Republicans rated the pandemic as their most important issue. Swing voters rated the economy and criminal justice as more important issues than coronavirus, too.
“Democrats and Republicans are having two different elections,” KFF President Drew Altman said in a press release. “For Democrats, it’s about Covid and race. For Republicans it’s the economy and violence.”
KFF surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,199 adults.