With the US election 100 days away, more Americans say the country is going the wrong way than at any other point in Donald Trump’s presidency.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research’s new poll also finds Trump’s approval for his treatment of the Covid-19 pandemic dropping to a new low, with only 32% of Americans supporting his approach.
Even Mr. Trump’s position on the economy, long the high watermark for the President, has declined in recent months after appearing as an ascendant earlier this year.
That political headwind has sparked a sudden summer shift in the White House and the Trump campaign. After weakening the pandemic for months and largely ignoring the resurgence of the virus in several states, Trump is now warning that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.
After repeatedly minimizing the importance of wearing masks to limit the spread of the virus, Trump is now urging Americans to wear them. And after insisting that he go ahead with a major campaign congress in August, the President announced that he will scrap those plans.
The AP-NORC poll shows that eight out of ten Americans say the country is going the wrong way. That is more than ever since Mr Trump took office. The poll also shows that only 38% of Americans say the national economy is good, up from 67% in January, before the pandemic turned most aspects of everyday life upside down.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s campaign is eager to keep the last months of the campaign fully focused on Mr. Trump, convinced that the former vice president can win if the contest is a referendum on whether the current commander in chief has succeeded during his four years in office.
Kate Bedingfield, Mr. Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said, “People are fed up and tired of a government that is divided and broken and unable to get things done. What people are getting from Trump right now is a mishmash of self-righteous political talk. ‘
The past few months have proved favorable to Mr Biden’s campaign. He managed to quickly consolidate the Democratic Party in ways that the party’s 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton struggled to do. Mr. Biden’s fundraising, a weakness for him in the contest to become the Democratic candidate, has skyrocketed, allowing his campaign to build an infrastructure and start spending on ads in both traditional battlefield states and more ambitious goals, including Texas and Georgia.
Biden has also benefited from Trump’s landing on the wrong side of the public in his initial responses to the pandemic. For example, three in four Americans demand that people wear masks in public, which Trump initially rejected.
A new pandemic test for the President is ahead in August and September as Trump and his administration aggressively try to sell a skeptical audience about school reopening. The poll shows that about a third of Americans are completely against the idea, while nearly half say major adjustments to the instruction will be needed.
The limitations imposed by the pandemic on the candidates’ ability to travel and hold large gatherings were also more responsive to Mr. Biden’s strengths. While Trump enjoys headlining rallies in full arenas, Biden is less adept at those environments. Instead, he has delivered speeches to small groups of invited guests and journalists within driving distance of his Delaware home, and held virtual events with supporters and donors in recent months.
Trump argues that Biden doesn’t have the stamina for a full campaign; Mr Biden’s advisers say voters want their leaders to adhere to the same public health guidelines they encourage others to follow.
Democrats are backed by public polls that lead Mr Biden ahead of Mr Trump, both nationally and in some states on the battlefield, by a comfortable margin. However, Mr Biden’s advisers warn that they expect the race to tighten in the final stages before election day, as more Republicans dissatisfied with Trump’s performance fall back on their party leader.
Overall, 38% of Americans approve of the President’s performance – well within the limited range that Mr. Trump’s endorsement scores have remained during this presidency, but slightly lower than earlier this year before the pandemic. Most Republicans – 81% – endorse Trump’s performance, but only 68% of Republicans support his approach to the pandemic.