One aspect of the 2020 race is getting more and more attention: Polls consistently show that President Trump is losing support among older voters amid the pandemic. The upshot of coverage is that Trump has plenty of time to turn things around, but if he fails to do so, Joe Biden gains an important potential avenue to the White House. Details:
- 'Seismic' shift: Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 13 points among those 65 and older, but this year, he trails Biden by a single point in the same group, per an analysis of polls at FiveThirtyEight. If this 14-point swing holds in November—and that's a big if, notes the analysis—it would represent a "seismic shift in the voting behavior of America's oldest voters," writes Geoffrey Skelley. Trump also has fallen significantly among voters 55 and older; he won by 10 points in 2016 but is currently tied with Biden.
- The pandemic: The White House's internal data suggests that much of Trump's trouble with seniors stems from his daily coronavirus briefings, reports the Wall Street Journal. The briefings, which he has since curtailed, were roundly criticized because Trump frequently attacked reporters and spoke at length about his own medical theories. The story quotes a campaign insider who notes that seniors were watching the briefings closely because they were most at risk for the virus, and many grew frustrated at the lack of usable information.
- Amplifying that: "Trump has suffered a double whammy with seniors from the coronavirus crisis, both in terms of a dislike for his personal demeanor and disapproval of his policy priorities," Democratic strategist Geoff Garin tells the New York Times. "If there’s a durable change with older voters, it could well cost Trump the election."
- Key states: Trump has fallen behind among older voters in battleground states including Florida (he was down by 10 in an April Quinnipiac poll) and Pennsylvania (down by 6 in an April Fox poll), per the Journal. Trump won by double digits in 2016 in both states among voters 65 and older. A CNN analysis notes that voters older than 45 make up the biggest share of the electorate in those two states as well as four others seen as crucial to victory: Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
- Alarm sounded: Kellyanne Conway has been among the most vocal advisers warning the president about the problem with older voters, reports the Times. The White House has begun rolling out ads praising Trump's coronavirus response and highlighting initiatives, featuring both Trump and VP Mike Pence, that might appeal to seniors. That includes expanding telehealth for Medicare recipients and signaling more flexibility about mail-in voting for the general election.
- Summing up: It seems fair to say that Trump is "currently underwater with older voters," writes Skelley at FiveThirtyEight. "Going forward, we’ll keep a careful eye on things to see if this shift in voter sentiment holds. Because if it does, it could have a major impact on the outcome in November."
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