As the Senate begins confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, two-thirds of voters say Congress should focus instead on passing more COVID-19 relief for struggling workers and businesses, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.
The survey, which was conducted from Oct. 9 to 11, found that large majorities of the public think Congress has its priorities backward. Not only do more than three-quarters (77 percent) of registered voters want legislators to approve another major pandemic relief package; 66 percent want the Senate to vote on it before voting on Barrett’s nomination. A full third of Republicans (33 percent) agree.
In contrast, negotiations over a new round of stimulus funds remain at a partisan impasse while the Republican-controlled Senate plows ahead with its plan to install Barrett on the court before the Nov. 3 election — even though at least two GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Utah’s Mike Lee and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days.
In response, a majority of registered voters (54 percent) say in-person hearings should be delayed. Only 36 percent say the opposite.
The consensus around Congress’s misplaced priorities reflects the deepening influence of COVID-19 on the final days of the 2020 election. While slightly more voters blame Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (43 percent) than President Trump (40 percent) for Washington’s continuing failure to agree on a relief bill, that dynamic has in no way boosted Trump. On the contrary, Trump continues to trail Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 8 percentage points among likely voters (43 percent to 51 percent) in large part because they have taken an even dimmer view of the president’s leadership on COVID-19 in the wake of his own recent hospitalization and the broader White House outbreak that has left dozens infected.
For instance, a clear majority of voters (57 percent) now agree with the following assessment: If those in and around the Trump White House “can’t protect themselves from the virus, how can they protect America?” Most (53 percent) also say they trust the administration less on COVID-19 because of the White House outbreak. And even though 42 percent agree that it “goes to show anyone can get COVID-19 and it’s no big deal” — something that the families of the 215,000 Americans killed by the virus would likely take issue with — a much larger number (58 percent) disagree with that claim.
As a result, Biden’s lead on the question of who would do a better job handling the pandemic has doubled from 7 points (45 percent to 38 percent) to 14 points (48 percent to 34 percent) over the last week. Meanwhile, voter approval of Trump’s COVID-19 response has fallen from 43 percent to 40 percent, with 56 percent saying they disapprove.
Trump’s own behavior since returning from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center has contributed to this decline. In last week’s Yahoo News/YouGov poll, which was conducted immediately after the president’s diagnosis, a little more than half (54 percent) of voters believed that his illness would have no effect on his approach to the pandemic, which has been to minimize the need for precautions. Now that Trump has spent his first week back in the White House dismissing the dangers of the virus and proclaiming that he feels better than he did 20 years ago, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) are convinced he won’t change.
The problem is that most voters seem to wish he would. Asked about things Trump has done before and since returning to the White House, sizable majorities disapproved: of his decision to greet supporters outside the hospital by riding in an armored car with Secret Service agents (61 percent inappropriate vs. 29 percent appropriate); of his decision to leave the hospital and return to the White House while still undergoing treatment for COVID-19 (53 percent inappropriate vs. 35 percent appropriate); of his decision to remove his mask in front of TV cameras upon his return to the White House (55 percent inappropriate vs. 34 percent appropriate); and of his decision to immediately hold in-person campaign events (58 percent inappropriate to 28 percent appropriate).
Overall, 63 percent of registered voters now say Trump has not been wearing a mask and social distancing appropriately, up from 59 percent last week. Similar majorities say the president is endangering those around him (56 percent) and continues to face a very or somewhat serious “risk of severe illness or even death from COVID-19” (55 percent), despite his claims of recovery. With Trump’s first post-COVID-19 rally scheduled for Monday night in Florida, 62 percent say it’s inappropriate for him to hold crowded campaign rallies during the pandemic and 54 percent think he should suspend in-person rallies for the rest of the campaign.
A Trump comeback is still possible, but time is running out. With Election Day three weeks away, 17 percent of registered voters say they have already cast their ballots — up from 10 percent one week before, 6 percent earlier that same week and just 1 percent in late September. Among these voters, Biden is beating Trump by 47 points (70 percent to 23 percent); Trump leads among those planning to vote on Election Day, but by a smaller margin of 67 percent to 26 percent. And while the former vice president has been banking early votes, the number of Biden and Trump voters who say they could still change their minds fell from 6 percent a week ago to 3 percent today. Including undecideds (6 percent), that leaves just 9 percent of voters up for grabs. Trump would have to win nearly all of America’s few remaining persuadable voters to close the gap with Biden.
Perhaps reflecting the electoral challenges facing the president, a plurality of registered voters now predict for the first time since July that Biden (44 percent) rather than Trump (40 percent) will win in November.
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,525 U.S. registered voters interviewed online from Oct. 9 to 11. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 presidential vote, registration status, geographic region and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. registered voters. The margin of error is approximately 4.3 percent.
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