AJC poll: Mixed reaction to Kemp and Trump’s response to coronavirus

A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll gave Gov. Brian Kemp slightly better marks for handling the coronavirus pandemic than President Donald Trump, although respondents generally gave both mixed reviews. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

A little more than six months into the coronavirus pandemic, the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows nearly two-thirds of Georgians, 65%, are worried they or a family member could be exposed to the deadly virus. But those same Georgians are sharply divided over how well they think President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp have handled the government response to COVID-19 so far.

Overall, 49% of likely Georgia voters polled said they strongly or somewhat disapproved of Trump’s handling of the crisis, while 48% strongly or somewhat approved of the job the president is doing. The United States now leads all nations in reported coronavirus cases, with 6.9 million, and more than 200,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The AJC survey of 1,150 likely voters was conducted Sept. 11-20 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. It has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

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Voters' political leanings strongly correlated with their opinion of Trump’s job performance related to the virus. Among very liberal voters, 81% said they strongly disapproved of the job Trump has done, while 86% of conservative voters strongly approved.

Cissy Reeves, a 74-year-old retired flight attendant from Dawson County, likes the way Trump has responded to the pandemic. “I think he’s handing it beautifully,” Reeves said. “If he went to pieces like some people would do, that’s not going to help anybody.”

But Pam Belanger, 72, said the president’s approach to COVID-19 is one of the many reasons she’s planning to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in November. “I give Trump a triple-F,” said the former teacher from Woodstock. “He doesn’t bear the responsibility of coming up with (the virus), but he bears the responsibility of what he’s done, or what he hasn’t done.”

With Election Day six weeks away, voters were closely divided between Biden and Trump on the issue. Forty-eight percent said Biden would do a better job handling the pandemic and 46% responded that Trump would be better, falling within the margin of error.

Kemp is not up for reelection in 2020, but voters in the survey gave him slightly higher marks than the president for his response to the crisis so far. Overall, 50% approved of the way the governor has handled it, while 47% disapproved.

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Kemp made national headlines in April when he was among the first governors in the country to allow businesses to reopen, including bowling alleys, gyms, tattoo parlors and salons.

He has also refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, instead encouraging Georgians to wear masks on a fly-around tour of local communities. In August, he signed an executive order allowing local governments to issue their own mask mandates after months of preventing local mask ordinances.

The governor’s refusal to let cities require masks was one of the reasons Atlanta heath IT professional Ameenay Khan, 30, said she disapproved of the job Kemp has done on the virus so far, along with his decision to reopen the state “where there was still a lot of empirical evidence that it wasn’t safe to do so.”

AJC poll

The poll was conducted Sept. 11-20 for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. It questioned 1,150 likely voters and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Regardless of how you intend to vote, who do you think would do a better job of responding to the coronavirus pandemic?

Donald Trump — 46%

Joe Biden — 48%

Don’t know — 6%

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus outbreak?

Strongly approve — 37%

Somewhat approve — 11%

Somewhat disapprove — 5%

Strongly disapprove — 44%

Don’t know — 2%

Do you approve or disapprove of Gov. Brian Kemp’s handling of the coronavirus in Georgia?

Strongly approve — 33%

Somewhat approve — 16%

Somewhat disapprove — 10%

Strongly disapprove — 37%

Don’t know — 3%

How worried are you that you or someone in your family will be exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Very worried — 28%

Somewhat worried — 36%

Not too worried — 17%

Not worried at all — 16%

Don’t know — 2%

On some questions, totals may not add up to 100% because of rounding.

Poll information: The survey was administered by the School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center at the University of Georgia. The AJC-SPIA Poll was conducted September 11-20, 2020, and included a total of 1,150 likely general election voters in Georgia. The calculated margin of error for the total sample is +/-4.3 points at the 95% confidence level.

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