By MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans blame the U.S. government instead of foreign nations for the coronavirus crisis in the United States, a rebuke to the Trump administration’s contention that China or other countries are most at fault, a new poll shows.
The poll by The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research was conducted before President Donald Trump tested positive for the virus Friday and was hospitalized. Trump has downplayed the severity and impact of the pandemic in recent months.
Although many see plenty of blame to go around and there’s a wide bipartisan divide over who is responsible, 56% of Americans say the U.S. government has substantial responsibility for the situation. That compares with 47% who place that much blame on the governments of other countries and only 39% who say the same about the World Health Organization.
“It reflects a general lack of confidence in the way the government has handled the situation,” said Austin Wright of the Harris School for Public Policy.
More than 1 million people worldwide, including more than 200,000 Americans, have died of COVID-19 in the outbreak. Trump has squarely blamed the virus’ spread on China, where it originated, and an inadequate response from the WHO.
As he faces a rough reelection contest in November, Trump has steadily ramped up criticism of China for the virus and announced the U.S. would halt funding for and withdraw from the international health agency over alleged Chinese interference in its work. Critics, including public health experts, have said China bears some responsibility but have also harshly criticized Trump’s response.
The poll shows Democrats are especially likely to say the U.S. government is responsible for the situation, while many Republicans are likely to place the blame elsewhere. Among Democrats, 79% say the U.S. government has a great deal of responsibility, while 37% say that about other countries’ governments and 27% about the WHO. Among Republicans, 38% say the U.S. government is responsible, compared with 60% for the governments of other countries and 55% the WHO.
Self-described conservative Republican Ralph Martinez, a 67-year-old grocery store manager from the Fort Worth, Texas area, said he wasn’t sure that any government could have handled it better and dismissed criticism that Trump had downplayed the matter.
“It’s an open question, honestly,” he said. “I don’t care who’s in office, I think they’re going to do their best for everyone. But how much can they do?”
Martinez, who said he had to throw a customer out of his store for not wearing a mask recently, lauded Trump for not wanting to create panic in the early stages of the outbreak in the U.S. He also recalled unprecedented runs on items such as toilet paper and paper towels when people realized the virus was not a momentary phenomenon.
“You would not believe how crazy these people got,” he said. “I can’t imagine how bad it would have been