President Donald Trump in July walked by a map of U.S. coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump in July walked by a map of U.S. coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

As the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak approaches 200,000 in the United States, Americans give their country comparatively low marks for its handling of the pandemic – and people in other nations tend to agree with that negative assessment. Below is a closer look at how people in the U.S. and around the world view America’s response to COVID-19, based on recent Pew Research Center surveys in the U.S. and other countries.

Most Americans say the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak has been less effective than that of other wealthy nations. Around six-in-ten adults (62%) hold that view, while a quarter say America’s response has been about as effective and 13% say it has been more effective, according to a survey conducted July 27 to Aug. 2.

Americans say U.S. handling of COVID-19 has trailed other wealthy nations

Attitudes on this question are deeply divided along partisan lines, as they are on many questions related to the coronavirus. Almost nine-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (87%) say the U.S. response has been less effective than that of other wealthy countries, while Republicans and GOP leaners are much more divided: Around a third (34%) say it has been less effective, 42% say it has been about as effective and 22% say it has been more effective.

As the pandemic continues, a declining share of Americans give high marks to public health officials and elected officials, according to the same survey. The share of U.S. adults who say public health officials such as those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are doing an excellent or good job responding to the outbreak decreased from 79% in March to 63% in August, with an especially sharp decrease among Republicans. Decreasing shares of Americans say the same about the responses of their local and state elected officials, as well as President Donald Trump.

Sharp decline in share of Republicans who say public health officials are doing well in handling coronavirus

Republicans and Democrats are far more divided over Trump’s response to the outbreak than they are over any of the other entities and officials asked about in the survey. Around three-quarters of Republicans (73%) say the president is doing an excellent or good job responding to the outbreak, compared with just 6% of Democrats.

One U.S. institution is viewed positively across party lines: Nearly nine-in-ten Americans (88%), including 90% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats, say their local hospitals and medical centers are doing at least a good job in responding to the outbreak.

More think their country has handled COVID-19 well, with the exceptions of the U.S. and UK

Unlike in the U.S., people in other countries mostly say their own country has done a good job dealing with the outbreak. Around half of Americans (52%) say the country has done a bad job responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, while a similar share (47%) say the response has been good, according to a survey in the U.S. and 13 other countries this summer. People in most of the surveyed nations are far more likely to see their country’s response positively than negatively. In neighboring Canada, for example, 88% of adults say their country has done a good job, while just 11% say it has done a bad job. The balance of opinion is similar in Germany, the Netherlands and South Korea.

But public sentiment is not positive everywhere. In the United Kingdom, 54% of adults say their country has done a bad job handling COVID-19, while 46% say it has done a good job. People in Spain are also fairly closely divided: A little over half (54%) say the country has done a good job responding to COVID-19, while 47% say the response has been bad.

Few think the U.S. has dealt with the coronavirus outbreak well

People in other countries overwhelmingly believe the U.S. has done a bad job dealing with COVID-19. Across the 13 countries surveyed this summer, a median of 84% of adults say the U.S. has done a bad job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, including 53% who say it has done a very bad job. A median of only 15% of adults in the surveyed countries see the U.S. response positively.

Opinions about the U.S. response are especially negative in South Korea, Denmark, Germany and Belgium. In each of these countries, around nine-in-ten adults say the U.S. response to COVID-19 has been bad, including roughly two-thirds in South Korea (66%) and Belgium (64%) who say it has been very bad.

People outside the U.S. rate America’s response to COVID-19 more negatively than the response of their own country, the World Health Organization, the European Union and – in most cases – China. In all 13 countries surveyed this summer, people see the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak as worse than the response of their own country, the WHO and the EU. And in all but one country, Japan, people see America’s response more negatively than that of China. (In Japan, 15% of adults say the U.S. has done a good job, while 16% say the same about China.)

All publics surveyed rank the U.S. coronavirus response lowest
John Gramlich  is a senior writer/editor at Pew Research Center.