According to a study published by the Pew Research Center last week, the majority of voters are pessimistic about the future with regards to Covid-19: "73% of U.S. adults say that in thinking about the problems the country is facing from the coronavirus outbreak, the worst is still to come."
This is in contrast to Trump's optimism about the future - according to this article:
President Donald Trump on Wednesday played down the possibility that
the coronavirus could be worse this winter despite medical experts'
warnings that COVID-19 could combine with the flu to make a more
complicated return to the United States.
Trump, who has been pushing for states to begin reopening their
economies, batted down notions that COVID-19 could return in large
waves, as has happened in previous pandemics. Health experts and
members of the White House coronavirus task force have warned of a
possible comeback for the virus next fall.
“It’s not going to be what we’ve gone through, in any way, shape or
form,” Trump said flatly.
He continued: “If it comes back, though, it won’t be coming back in
the form that it was. It will be coming back in smaller doses that we
can contain. ... You could have some embers of corona ... (but) we
will not go through what we went through for the last two months.”
The fact that the public does not see their fears taken seriously by the President may contribute to a reduced approval rating.
Indeed, the overwhelming fear of the American public appears to be that restrictions on public activity will be lifted too early rather than too late. The study also found that "about twice as many Americans say their greater concern is that state governments will lift restrictions on public activity too quickly (66%) as say it will not happen quickly enough (32%)."
Meanwhile, in the last week, Trump has released guidance to state governors on how to ease lockdown restrictions, although in recent days this has been rowed back on slightly, with Georgia's governor being criticized by the President: "It's just too soon. The spas and the beauty parlors and the barber shops ... I love them but they can want a little bit longer, just a little bit, not much, because safety has to predominate."
Despite this, it is clear from the survey data that the American public has clear misgivings over the President's coronavirus response and this has translated to a hit in approval ratings.
The relatively smaller opinion spike compared to other world leaders can be at least partially explained by the high levels of partisanship in the US; the additional approval rating provided initally by the "rally 'round the flag" effect will mostly have come from independents and Democrats. Indeed, as Trump himself put it on twitter:
96% Approval Rating in the Republican Party. Thank you! This must also
mean that, most importantly, we are doing a good (great) job in the
handling of the Pandemic.
This is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that the Presidential election is coming up in November - Democrats will be less likely to support Trump no matter his handling of the pandemic, and Republicans will most likely have already supported the President and be unwilling to swing away from him. Conversely, most state gubernatorial elections will not be happening this year. It would be interesting to explore further whether governors of states that are having elections this year have seen a similarly muted peak in approval rating.