Approval of Trump's coronavirus response sinks to lowest on record amid surge in cases

Mr Trump has been slow to publicly acknowledge the severity of the coronavirus outbreak. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - American approval of United States President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has dropped to the lowest level on record, the latest Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll shows, as new Covid-19 cases surged and Mr Trump was widely criticised for suggesting he wanted to slow down testing.

The June 22-23 poll also found that a majority of Americans want Mr Trump's former national security adviser, Mr John Bolton, to testify to Congress under oath, after he accused Mr Trump in a new book of misdeeds, including seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping's help to win re-election.

The poll shows that 37 per cent of Americans approved of the way Mr Trump has responded to the pandemic, the lowest on record since Reuters/Ipsos started asking the question at the beginning of March. Fifty-eight per cent said they disapproved.

With a little over four months to go before the Nov 3 general election, Mr Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, leads Mr Trump by 10 percentage points among registered voters, according to the latest poll, down slightly from a 13-point lead in a similar poll last week.

Mr Trump has been slow to publicly acknowledge the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 120,000 Americans so far, and he has pushed states to reopen before experts said it was safe to do so.

In his first post-pandemic rally, held in Oklahoma last Saturday (June 20), the president told thousands of supporters that testing was a "double-edged sword" and that he asked health officials to slow down testing in response to the public's concern for the growing number of cases.

Administration officials said Tuesday that Mr Trump did not, in fact, ask them to slow down testing, which is one way to track and eventually control the spread of the disease.

Cases have jumped by 25 per cent nationally, according to the latest seven-day tally, led by spikes in a number of states such as Texas, Arizona and Florida that have been more lenient about social distancing.

Mr Trump has steadily bled support among a broad swath of voters since March. Americans are increasingly critical of his response to the pandemic and a wave of protests in the aftermath of the May 25 police killing of Mr George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.

Members of Mr Trump's Republican Party also appeared to be more pessimistic than at any other time during his presidency. Just 43 per cent said they thought the country was headed in the "right direction," the lowest level recorded by the Reuters/Ipsos poll since Mr Trump entered office in January 2017.

Mr Trump has faced an unusual outpouring of criticism from members of the military establishment such as Mr James Mattis, his first defence secretary, over his militarised response to the protests.

Most recently, Mr Bolton said Mr Trump was unfit to be president and accused him in his new book of routinely obstructing justice.

Fifty-eight per cent of Americans - 81 per cent Democrats and 37 per cent Republicans - said they would like to see Mr Bolton testify under oath about his experiences in the Mr Trump administration.

Mr Bolton, who refused to do so last year as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump, appeared to confirm one of the investigation's central allegations in his book, saying that Mr Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden and his son, Hunter, as a condition to receiving US security aid.

However, Americans appear to be less interested in another protracted impeachment investigation, so close to the election.

Forty-one per cent said they wanted Congress to open another inquiry into Mr Trump, while 39 per cent said they were opposed, and 20 per cent said they were "not sure".

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,115 adults, including 503 Democrats and 408 Republicans. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points.

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