White evangelical Protestants seen as the bedrock of U.S. President Donald Trump's support in May were slightly less positive about his response to the coronavirus pandemic now than they were in March.
This is the finding of a new Pew Research Center survey at a time the president is looking to his a group that is seen as important for his political support during the election he will face in November.
The decline comes as recommendations for social distancing in the United States distend into a third month and Americans overall express waning confidence in how the president and public health officials are handling the crisis.
Three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants say Trump is doing an excellent (43 percent) or good job (32 percent) responding to the outbreak, according to the survey, conducted April 29 to May 5 among 10,957 U.S. adults.
No other religious group comes close to evaluating the president so positively.
Even so, the share of white evangelicals who give Trump positive marks for his handling of the crisis is 6 percentage points lower today than when the question was last asked in a survey conducted March 19 to 24.
100,000 COVID-19 DEATHS IN US
President Trump in a Twitter post on May 28 tweeted that the United States reaching 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus was "a very sad milestone."
"To all of the families & friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!," Trump wrote. @realDonaldTrump
"We have just reached a very sad milestone with the coronavirus pandemic deaths reaching 100,000. To all of the families & friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!"
By the time Trump posted his tweet on Thursday morning, there were at least 100,442 official Covid-19 deaths reported in the U.S., with nearly 1.7 million confirmed cases in the country.
The U.S. accounts for more than 28 percent of the reported deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic in the world.
The Pew survey noted that white evangelical Protestants are a strongly Republican constituency, and their declining confidence in the president mirrors a slight decrease among Republicans overall.
In mid-May, 77 percent of those who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party were saying the president was doing an excellent or good job handling the COVID-19 outbreak, down from 83 percent who said this in the March survey.
Catholics, who on balance gave Trump positive ratings for his handling of the pandemic in March, now mostly rate his response negatively, with 19 percent saying Trump has done an "only fair" job and 37 percent describing his performance as "poor."
Seven-in-ten Hispanic Catholics now have a negative assessment of Trump's response, compared with 57 percent in March, while the share of white Catholics who give Trump negative marks has increased to 45 percent, from 38 percent in March.
POSITVE CATHOLIC VIEW OF TRUMP ON COVID-19
The survey noted, however, on balance, white Catholics still view Trump's response to the virus positively.
Declining majority of white evangelicals have positive view of public health officials' COVID-19 response.
In addition to growing doubts about the president's handling of the crisis, white evangelicals and members of many other Christian groups also show signs of wavering confidence in public health officials such as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In the most recent survey, 71 percent of white evangelical Protestants say they think public health officials are doing an excellent or good job handling the outbreak, down 16 percentage points from 87 percent who said this in March.
"This aligns with the fact that Republicans are less likely than Democrats to approve of health officials' handling of the crisis," wrote Gregory A. Smith in the survey.
"Currently, 68 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say public health officials such as those at the CDC have done an excellent or good job in dealing with the outbreak, down from 84percent in the March survey. Democrats' views on public health officials remain stable, with roughly three-quarters expressing a positive opinion.
The new survey also asked Americans about another widely debated issue: restrictions on public activity.
Some stay-at-home orders that were imposed by states in March and April had just starting easing when the survey was conducted, though public health officials had subsequently warned about the risks of lifting restrictions too soon.
Overall, just over two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) say their bigger concern is that states will begin lifting restrictions too soon, while nearly three-in-ten (31 percent) say their bigger concern is that states will not lift restrictions quickly enough.
These findings are similar to those from early April, though views have become somewhat more divided along partisan and ideological lines over the last month.
WHITE EVANCELIAL MORE INCLINDED TO LIFTING RESTRICTIONS
White evangelicals are more inclined than other religious groups to say their bigger concern is that restrictions will not be lifted quickly enough – as opposed to lifted too quickly – and that there should be fewer restrictions in their local area than are currently in place.
Still, just over half of white evangelicals (51 percent) say their bigger concern is that restrictions will be lifted too quickly.
And nearly six-in-ten white evangelical Protestants say that the restrictions in their area should either remain as they are now (43 percent) or be increased (15 percent).
Although respondents were not asked their opinion about restrictions on religious activity specifically, limits on services held by houses of worship have been a contentious topic during the outbreak.