President Donald Trump continues to see his highest approval ratings of his first term in office, hitting 49 percent in the most recent Gallup survey (48 percent disapprove) and 51 percent in the Hill/HarrisX poll (49 percent disapprove) as the Trump administration continues its response to the China-originated COVID-19 pandemic and states begin reopening.
President Trump has demanded China release any and all information about the true origin of the virus out of Wuhan even while Beijing has sought to sow narratives that first it was planted by American military or later that it somehow came from Europe. Even though the virus began in early December, China would not confirm human to human transmission until Jan. 20 and by Jan. 24 had Wuhan on lockdown.
Besides the response to the massive disruptions caused by the pandemic both from a public health and economic perspective, Trump’s demands for accountability could be a critical factor shaping public sentiment about the virus and who to blame, with 48 percent who now have a negative view of China on account of the virus, according to Hill/HarrisX.
All told, 62 percent of Republicans have a more negative view of communist China, 36 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents. Above the age of 65, views toward China have soured to 57 percent, negative, from 50-64, to 55 percent, and 35-49, to 45 percent. A large plurality in all categories said the pandemic made no difference about their opinion.
As the election campaign wears on, and those views solidify, it could also begin to whittle down support for former Vice President Joe Biden, whose prior positions on China the Trump campaign will surely exploit.
In May 2019, Biden said at a campaign stop in Iowa, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man…they can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the east, I mean in the west… they can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not, they’re not competition for us.”
In a fundraising call in April 2019, Biden claimed world leaders were begging him to run for president, “I get calls from people all over the world — world leaders are calling me — and they’re almost begging me to do this, to save the country, save the world.”
Overall, on approval, Trump appears to winning almost every demographic, with 50 percent approval among 50-64 and 65 and over. His strongest demographic is 35-49, with 59 percent approval. On the latter end of 35-49, of note, that’s the generation that grew up when Ronald Reagan was president.
All that, despite more than 23 million jobs lost since the pandemic began, shows resilient support for the incumbent administration. Oddly enough, the issue of the economy appears to have been neutralized, with voters blaming the virus-directed closures for the economic fallout and not anything that had been wrong policy wise. Now, with states taking the lead in reopening, it is possible that labor markets have already hit their bottoms or are near their bottoms, and will be recovering by the time November rolls around.
Such an accelerated jobs surge, as the pandemic becomes a memory, could make Trump an unstoppable force in November, with echoes of 1984, when the incumbent Reagan trounced former Vice President Walter Mondale. Is Biden like Mondale? We’re about to find out.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.