What's Behind Erosion of Public Trust in Biden on COVID-19?
Public trust in Joe Biden over providing accurate COVID-19 information is tanking, according to the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index survey released on Tuesday. What are possible reasons behind the erosion of faith and does it spell trouble for the president and the Democrats ahead of 2022?
Only 45 percent of respondents surveyed by Axios/Ipsos earlier this month said they trust the president's information about the virus and pandemic, while 53 percent signalled that they have little or no trust in Biden's words.
The Axios/Ipsos chart indicates a considerable slide given that 58 percent said they trusted newly sworn-in President Biden back in January 2021. For comparison's sake, just 27 percent said they trusted Donald Trump to provide "accurate information" about the virus prior to Biden's inauguration, according to the pollster.
The slump could be also observed across the political spectrum: Democrats and Republicans have lost public trust by 11 and 10 percentage points, respectively, while the number of independents with faith in Biden's COVID narrative dropped by 17 points. Presently, 81 percent of Dems trust the president on the pandemic, compared to 11 percent of GOP members and 42 percent of independents, according to the poll.
The Delta variant and other issues related to the coronavirus outbreak have "undermined the public's perception" of how much they can trust Biden's assurances on curbing the pandemic, according to President of Ipsos US Public Affairs Cliff Young.
"He won on COVID, he surfed the first six months on COVID, but he's being challenged by it now because there's not a clear resolution in sight," Young told Axios.
Politicisation of COVID
Still, social media users and conservative observers suggest that Biden and his administration have contributed a lot to the erosion of trust with regard to the pandemic and measures to curb the COVID spread.
Speaking to Newsmax this September, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel accused Biden and VP Kamala Harris of undermining trust in vaccines during their election campaign roughly a year ago: "It's Democrats who sowed doubt and division," she insisted.
On 16 September 2020, then Democratic presidential candidate Biden urged Donald Trump against rushing the vaccine rollout and announced that he didn't trust the president:
Nevertheless, once Biden assumed office, his administration sources claimed that the incoming administration had to create the inoculation plan "from scratch." However, even before Biden took the reins, his predecessor nearly met a goal of inoculating 100 million people in 100 days by distributing about one million doses a day, on average. The attempt to list the COVID vaccination programme as Biden's achievement without noticing Trump's warp speed effort prompted ire among the Republicans and GOP voters.
Flip-Flopping on Masks & Origins of COVID
No less confusing was Biden's flip-flopping on wearing masks after vaccination. The president announced on 13 May that Americans didn't need to wear masks after getting their COVID jabs. "Get vaccinated — or wear a mask until you do," he stated.
However, in late July the president back-pedalled on his decision and urged fully inoculated people wear masks indoors in areas with "substantial or high transmission" of the coronavirus, in accordance with new CDC guidance.
Similarly, the president abruptly changed his mind with regards to the origins of the pandemic. Biden's decision to launch a 90-day investigation on 27 May and revisit the theory of a potential leak from China's Wuhan Institute for Virology raised many eyebrows, given that the same hypothesis voiced by Trump and his supporters was previously rubbished as a conspiracy theory by the Democrats.
In addition, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House COVID Czar – constantly lauded by Biden – has come under heavy criticism from the GOP over his handling of the pandemic as well as over allegedly funding the so-called "gain-of-function" research of coronaviruses through New York City-based EcoHealth Alliance headed by British scientist Peter Daszak, according to The Intercept.
At the beginning of September, Republican Senator Rand Paul caused a stir by claiming that Fauci lied to Congress when he said that the US had never funded any gain-of-function research of coronaviruses, citing National Institutes of Health (NIH) documents obtained by The Intercept through an FOI request.
Biden's New COVID Mandate Plan
On top of this, Biden's new COVID mandate plan has prompted controversy on the right side of the political aisle. Under the new plan, businesses with more than 100 employees will face fines unless they require their workers to be inoculated or get weekly COVID-19 tests.
The Republicans argued that in July 2021, the White House made it clear that vaccine mandates are "not the federal government role" and that it's up to private sector companies, institutions, and local communities to make inoculations obligatory for their workers.
"Forcing people to get the shots wasn’t Biden’s first choice," writes The Atlantic. "But with so many people still unvaccinated even though the shots are readily available, Biden was losing patience."
While left-leaning observers insist that "the majority of Americans are on board with mandates," they admit that Joe Biden's decision could be used by the GOP to strip the Dems of their congressional majority.
Similar fears have been voiced by Axios, which suggests that the erosion of public trust in Biden's stance on COVID-19 could "spell real trouble" for both the Democratic president "who built his support on a pledge to steer the nation out of crisis" and his party, whose "bare House and Senate majorities are on the line" in the forthcoming 2022 midterm elections.