At the height of the U.S. pandemic crisis, the President declared himself a "Wartime President," but the long-term effect could be more like a "Depression," a leading expert on how national crises impact consumer and/or voter sentiment said Thursday during an Advertising Research Foundation virtual "Town Hall" on how COVID-19 is "Affecting Public Attitudes, Emotions and Values."
"Is President Trump more like a wartime president? Or, on the flip-side is he more like a Depression President?," Ipsos Public Affairs President Cliff Young asked town hall attendees, while showing data indicating that a war can boost a President's approval rating by 16%, while a Depression can crash it by 17% or more.
"Is he one or the other? Is he something in between?," Young continued, implying that the answer may not be known until the current crisis plays out.
But data shown earlier in his presentation suggests most American citizens, at least, are leaning more toward a health crisis than an economic one.
The data (see chart below) indicates that Americans, regardless of their political affiliation, are prioritizing COVID-19 responses based on how it impacts their health vs. those that are prioritizing its impact on the economy -- even among Republicans.
"It's not about economics, right now," Young said, adding: "Right now, it's about health and weathering the pandemic storm."
That said, Young noted that the long-term effect of the pandemic would be an "unprecedented widespread profound and pervasive behavioral change never before seen in history."
He equated it to major events such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, which reshaped the underlying psyches -- as well as the behaviors -- of Americans.
He showed data showing a week-to-week deterioration in the way people perceive their physical health, mental health and emotional well-being from the previous week. Nearly a third of Americans feel their mental health is deteriorating, while two-fifths feel their emotional well-being has suffered.
Young also showed data indicating Americans are turning more toward experts like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, as well as local governments more than the federal government or news media, and as especially vs. social media over the same period of time.
He said scientific experts have historically held their esteem in the minds of most Americans over time, but emphasized they are "back in" and that a figure like NIAID Director Anthony Fauci "is a rockstar right now."