Updated October 14, 2020 - 5:02 pm
CARSON CITY — Nevada’s struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19 and manage its economic impacts appears to have sharply eroded public support for Gov. Steve Sisolak’s handling of the crisis, but he remains the person Nevadans trust most to manage the pandemic, according to a new poll.
The Nevada Poll™, conducted by WPA Intelligence for the Review-Journal and AARP Nevada, found 48 percent of respondents now disapprove of Sisolak’s handling of the pandemic and restrictions he ordered on businesses and public gatherings, while 46 percent approve. In May, the same question found 64 percent of respondents approving of Sisolak’s actions, while just 28 percent disapproved.
Even so, respondents put the greatest faith in the governor to make the best decisions about the coronavirus compared to President Donald Trump, the federal government, local officials, or individuals and businesses, though numbers for all groups were low. Just more than one-third, 35 percent, said they trusted Sisolak the most; 16 percent named either local governments or individuals and businesses; 15 percent named the president; and 7 percent said the federal government generally. Eleven percent said they did not know or refused to answer.
Overall, 47 percent of respondents gave the Democratic governor a thumbs-up, with 31 percent saying they strongly approve of the job he is doing; 40 percent disapproved, with 30 percent disapproving strongly. Thirteen percent said they did not know or did not answer.
Results within the margin
The poll of 512 likely Nevada voters was conducted Oct. 7-11. Results regarding both the governor’s overall approval and support for his pandemic-related actions are within the poll’s margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, meaning respondents are potentially split evenly.
Overall, the findings mostly reflect the sharp partisan divisions between Democrats and Republicans, said Chris Wilson, a Republican pollster and CEO of WPA Intelligence.
“If you’re a Democrat, you think the governor is doing a good job overall. If you’re a Republican, you think he’s doing a bad job overall,” Wilson said. “Those people who are most concerned about the economy and most concerned about unemployment, getting back to work, though, they’re the ones who believe he’s doing a bad job. Those who are most concerned about the coronavirus, they think he’s doing a good job.”
The governor’s office did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the poll’s results.
On overall approval, women and those 65 or older gave the governor his highest scores, with 49 percent of women approving, compared with 44 percent of men, and 52 percent of the over-65 group, compared with a low of 43 percent for those ages 35-44. The next-highest approval came from those ages 18-34, with 47 percent supporting the governor.
By level of education, Sisolak’s support was 50 percent or above for those at the college graduate and postgraduate level but 46 percent or lower for those with only some college or less. By income, those earning $50,000 or less gave Sisolak the highest marks — 51 percent — while those earning over $100,000 gave him the lowest, at 44 percent.
Those same splits were closely mirrored in the response to the governor’s specific handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the extremes, 57 percent of those 65 or older approved of the job the governor has done, 49 percent strongly approving, while 60 percent of the $100,000-and-over earners disapproved, 48 percent of them strongly.
“You’re probably looking at a lot of your small-business owners in those numbers,” Wilson said of the higher disapproval among bigger earners. “It tends to be the small-business owners, the small employers that are overwhelmingly negative toward him.”
Bad numbers for trust
On the trust question, Wilson said he interpreted the 35 percent support for Sisolak more as a negative, noting that it was 11 points below the governor’s rating on his handling of the virus thus far.
He also drew attention to the findings among those who identify as independents: 56 percent disapprove of Sisolak’s handling of the virus, with 38 percent approving, and 22 percent trust him going forward, compared with 19 percent who trust local officials, 18 percent who trust individuals and businesses, 17 percent who trust the president, and 11 who trust the federal government in general.
“Bottom line is, people in Nevada don’t know who to trust right now,” Wilson said. “If there is one person that they’re listening to, it’s certainly the governor, but their responses on that are so overly partisan … (and) independents are all over the map.”