Sep 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: Biden trust takes a blow as COVID lingers

Data: Axios/Ipsos polls; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios
Data: Axios/Ipsos polls; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

For the first time in his presidency, Joe Biden faces a trust deficit among Americans when it comes to COVID-19, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: The latest findings point to malaise more than fear. But malaise could spell real trouble for a Democratic president who built his support on a pledge to steer the nation out of crisis — and whose party's bare House and Senate majorities are on the line in 2022.

The big picture: Americans have become a bit less worried about living their lives. The respondents who see large risk in airline travel, dining out or visiting family and friends are at their lowest shares since mid-July.

  • And people are considerably more comfortable sending their kids back to school, or with Halloween trick-or-treating, than a year ago.
  • Still, they're stewing in the reality that even after the shutdowns, mask mandates and wide U.S. availability of effective vaccines, the virus is still mutating and with us.
  • Two-thirds of respondents said that any vaccinated American who wants a booster should be able to get one — not just the elderly or people at risk of severe illness.

What they're saying: "He won on COVID, he surfed the first six months on COVID, but he's being challenged by it now because there's not a clear resolution in sight," Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. public affairs, said of Biden.

  • "Delta and other issues have really undermined the public's perception" of how much they can trust Biden's assurances on curbing the pandemic.
  • "People have adapted. They have countermeasures they trust. But we're still in the middle of it. It hasn't gone away. You have to wear masks everywhere. It's doable, but it makes you frustrated."

By the numbers: 45% of those surveyed say they trust Biden a great deal or a fair amount to provide them with accurate information about the virus and pandemic, while 53% said they have little or no trust in him.

  • Compare that with the peak of trust in Biden on COVID — 58% to 42% — in our Jan. 22–25 survey, around his inauguration when he was in a honeymoon phase.
  • The slide can be seen across the political spectrum, with a net drop of 11 percentage points among Democrats, 17 points with independents and 10 points with Republicans.
  • In the latest survey, 81% of Democrats, 42% of independents and 11% of Republicans say they trust Biden on COVID.
  • 68% of parents surveyed said they see little or no risk in trick-or-treating this year, compared with 51% when we asked this question last October. And six in 10 adults see little or no risk to trick-or-treating in their community, a 15-point jump from last October.

Between the lines: The trust problem as the virus lingers goes beyond Biden, with declines over time for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (now 64%) and state governments (50%).

  • Trust in the federal government (49%) has risen and dipped, but is at around the same level as when Biden took office — and remains significantly higher than during Donald Trump's presidency.
  • Americans' trust in the media around COVID-19 information also has declined over time, for network news (now 45%), national newspapers (41%), cable news (34%) and conservative news outlets (26%).
  • Only about one in five respondents combined put a great or fair amount of trust in Fox's Tucker Carlson and in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Sept. 24–27 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,105 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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