Trust in Florida, Texas, Arizona GOP Governors Takes Drastic Nosedive as Coronavirus Cases Soar

State residents' approval of Republican governors managing coronavirus hot spots in the U.S. took a nosedive over the past two months as case numbers surged, according to survey data that Axios published Friday.

"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," Axios wrote about the survey results.

Between May 11 and July 19, online survey platform SurveyMonkey questioned adults in several states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas, about how they felt their governor was handling the state's coronavirus response. While Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp's approval among residents fluctuated mildly during the 10-week period, his 44 percent approval rating for his handling of the virus was about the same in mid-July as it was two months earlier.

By contrast, the surveys found that approval of the governors' responses to the outbreaks in Arizona, Florida and Texas dropped this month below the 50 percent threshold they exceeded in mid-May.

Approval of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott steadily declined during the 10-week period. By the time the survey concluded on July 19, 62 percent of residents in Arizona, 58 percent of residents in Florida and 55 percent of residents in Texas said they disapproved of their governor's handling of the virus, the survey found.

Governor Greg Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announces the reopening of more Texas businesses on May 18. In the weeks since, coronavirus case numbers in the state have skyrocketed and Texans’ approval of his response to the crisis has plummeted. Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty

Georgia was one of the first states to reopen businesses after the pandemic triggered economic shutdowns throughout the country. Though new cases have in recent weeks ticked upward in the state, Georgia hasn't seen the kind of explosion in cases that Arizona, Florida and Texas have experienced.

Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House's coronavirus task force, said on Friday that Florida, Texas and California—another coronavirus hot spot—were "essentially three New Yorks," a reference to the state that was, until recently, hit hardest by the pandemic. In the past week, California surpassed the total number of cases reported in New York state, and with more than 360,000 cases each, Florida and Texas appear to be heading in the same direction.

Though California now leads all U.S. states in terms of total case counts, the survey found that Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, had 60 percent approval among Californians for his handling of the virus in July. SurveyMonkey Chief Research Officer Jon Cohen told Axios that was attributable in part to Newsom's continued support among Democrats.

The same is not true in Texas. As Abbott's approval plummeted between May and July, SurveyMonkey found his approval among Republicans declined by 20 percent.

The shift in state residents' attitudes is also due to the rising number of people who know a COVID-19 patient, the survey said. The number of Florida residents who know someone who tested positive for the virus increased from 33 percent to 55 percent between May and July. The survey also found that the number of people with a personal connection to the virus nearly doubled during that same period in Texas.

Though Abbott, DeSantis and Ducey have all taken steps in recent weeks to slow the virus' spread by closing some businesses, the case surges that occurred during their initial hesitation to do so appear to have left residents wary of their approaches to the pandemic.

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

The survey was conducted online among 519,349 adults and has a margin of error between 2 and 4 percent among respondents in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Texas, according to SurveyMonkey.