Trump approval rating rises as he responds to the coronavirus outbreak

Crises are often the ticket to higher approval ratings for politicians, and President Donald Trump, it appears, is no exception. 

During an election year, any bump could have significant ramifications. 

In the latest Gallup poll, released Tuesday, Trump’s approval rating hit 49%, matching his best performance in the poll.

Earlier this month, Trump’s approval rating was at 44%, according to Gallup. The five-point boost comes amid the president’s near daily participation in coronavirus task force briefings and series of moves to combat the pandemic in the United States. 

This is the second time Trump has received a 49% approval rating in a Gallup poll. The first time was in February when Gallup published the results of a poll that was conducted at the time of his impeachment trial in the Senate.

The most recent Gallup poll was conducted between March 13 and March 22, around the same time that Trump began responding more seriously to the coronavirus, which has roiled markets and infected hundreds of thousands of people globally.

Trump initially downplayed the impact of the outbreak but has since changed his tune. It was on March 13 – the first day of the poll –  that he declared a national emergency, a move that freed up financial resources to assist Americans affected by the health crisis.

Since then, he’s pledged to waive all interest on federal student loans as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the economy, the result of harsh measures put in place to contain the virus. But a week after his promise, borrowers said they were still being charged interest.

And last week, following mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers, Trump said that he would put the Korean War-era Defense Production Act “into gear” to mobilize private business resources to fight the coronavirus. The act enables the government to compel businesses to manufacture supplies needed during a crisis, such as medical masks, ventilators, gloves and testing swabs. 

But he has not taken much advantage of that wartime power. The administration first used it on Tuesday to gain access to 60,000 coronavirus test kits, according to Politico. Several governors, mayors and police and fire departments have been begging Trump to use the act to increase production of protective gear for first responders. 

The Trump administration’s coronavirus task force on March 16 released guidelines that urged Americans for a two week period to avoid  going to restaurants or bars, or attending social gatherings of more than 10 individuals, and recommended most employees work from home. 

But Trump has in the last few days indicated that he would like to loosen those measures to restart the crashing economy by Easter, despite the virus’ acceleration. 

Trump gets good marks in the Gallup poll for his handling of the crisis.

Sixty percent of Americans indicated in the poll that they approve of the way the president is steering the country in response to the pandemic, with 38% saying they disapprove. 

Nearly all Republicans surveyed in the poll, 94%, said they approved of his response, while 60% of independents and 27% of Democrats said the same, according to Gallup. 

The poll, which had a margin of error of 4 percentage points, comes on the heels of other public surveys that have shown Trump’s popularity creeping upward recently.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted between March 18 and 19 found that 55% of people approve of the way Trump is handling the outbreak.

And a Real Clear Politics polling average clocks Trump’s popularity at about 44%, also having increased marginally since his first actions in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Still, Trump is not enjoying the kind of boost that other presidents have received during disasters. The president’s approval rating has consistently hovered below 50% in national polls throughout his term. 

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted between March 11 and 13 found that only 45% of people approved of the way Trump was handling the outbreak, while 51% do not.

Following 9/11, a catastrophe that galvanized the nation in similar fashion to the current crisis, former President George Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed in the days after, hovering between 86% and 90%.

Trump is managing the pandemic amid the backdrop of the 2020 election. It’s all but certain that former Vice President Joe Biden will be the Democratic challenger. Sen. Bernie Sanders has yet to drop out of the race, but Biden is the leader by far among pledged delegates.

In the race against Biden, Trump lags behind his rival, according to a Real Clear Politics polling average. Biden has 50.9% of support, compared with Trump’s 43.9%. 

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