A 'Gray Revolt' Might Be Trump's Biggest Problem

Polls show a huge reversal of support among seniors
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2020 1:13 PM CDT
Trump Sees 'Stunning' Drop in Support by Seniors
In this January 2020 photo, President Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

The 2020 race has been remarkably stable in some respects: Joe Biden continues to lead in the national polls and by a smaller margin in the battleground states. But the latest polls suggest that President Trump has drastically lost support among a crucial bloc of voters, those 65 and older. The gap has surprised observers, who say Trump's re-election chances are in serious trouble if it remains. Coverage:

  • The numbers: Two recent polls say Trump trails Biden among seniors by more than 20 points. A CNN poll has the gap at 21 points (60-39), while an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has it at 27 points (62-35). All of which is especially surprising because Trump won this same group by 9 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • The reaction: Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report calls it a "gray revolt," and Mike Allen of Axios sees it as "unexpected" and "stunning" because the senior drop-off could not only take down Trump but "the whole Republican power structure." Greg Sargent of the Washington Post calls it "astonishing" and "really hard to believe."

  • Why: Perceived mismanagement of the pandemic, which hits seniors especially hard, is seen as one big reason. But David Leonhardt of the New York Times writes that the decline in support for Trump among his fellow baby boomers—the only generation he won in 2016—began before the coronavirus hit. This might in part be because older voters are more willing to vote for Biden than Clinton. In terms of going from Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020, it helps that "boomers also have experience living in a less polarized country, when vote switching was more common." Whatever the case, Leonhardt says this reversal by boomers is the "central reason" Trump is trailing Biden in the race.
  • Why, II: Ella Nilsen of Vox agrees that while the handling of COVID is a factor, it can't solely explain the numbers. "Older voters have seen their fair share of presidents, and Trump's chaotic & unconventional presidency doesn't seem to be doing him many favors with the group," she writes.
  • The stakes: One former senior White House official tells Axios that he and others began sounding alarms bells in March in regard to how the pandemic might hurt the White House with seniors, to no avail. "If you can't win seniors, you can't win," says the former official. "And, if you don't take something that is killing old people seriously, you will lose seniors."
(More Election 2020 stories.)

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