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Exclusive poll: Coronavirus sinks GOP governors in hard-hit states

Data: SurveyMonkey; Note: Polls conducted continuously from May 11-July 19; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The governors in four of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus have taken a massive hit in public approval over their handling of the pandemic, according to SurveyMonkey poll data shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — all Republicans — saw their ratings take a nosedive this month as coronavirus cases skyrocketed in their states.


The latest caseloads in those states, by seven-day averages:

  • Florida: 11,172
  • Texas: 9,526
  • Arizona: 2,941
  • Georgia: 3,575

All four states' caseloads leveled off this week, but only after weeks of explosive growth.

Between the lines: In all four states, there were sharp increases between May and July in how many people knew someone with the coronavirus.

  • In Florida, for example, just 33% knew someone with the virus in the May 11-17 survey. By the July 13-19, that share had jumped to 55%.
  • In Texas, the numbers for those weeks jumped from 32% to 62%.

The key to the sharp declines for the four GOP governors was a softening in their support among Republicans, according to SurveyMonkey chief research officer Jon Cohen. In Texas, 69% of Republicans still approve of Abbott's handling of the virus, he said, but that's down from 89% right after Memorial Day.

  • By contrast, California Gov. Gavin Newsom — a Democrat — still has 60% support for his handling of the virus even though cases have exploded there too (setting a record of more than 12,800 new cases on Wednesday).
  • That's because he's held onto Democrats, Cohen says: Newsom still has the support of 82% of Democrats and Democratic leaners for his handling of the virus, even though he's lost support among Republicans and independents.
  • And in Ohio, where cases haven't risen as much, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine still has 68% support.

The other side: Ducey communications director Patrick Ptak dismissed the poll results: "We are not focused on polling. We are focused on managing this pandemic." Spokespeople for DeSantis, Abbott and Kemp didn't respond to requests for comment.

The bottom line: The political damage from the coronavirus won't just be a factor in the presidential election. It's going to affect the political standing — and the legacies — of the governors in the hardest-hit states, too.

Methodology: These data come from a set of SurveyMonkey online polls conducted May 11-July 19, 2020 among a national sample of 519,349 adults in the U.S., including 16,832 respondents in Arizona (modeled error estimate: plus or minus 3.5 percentage points), 64,231 in California (2 percentage points), 44,440 in Florida (2.5 percentage points), 12,883 in Georgia (4 percentage points), 12,158 in Ohio (4 percentage points), and 49,377 in Texas (2.5 percentage points).

Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.

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