A recent poll found Trump’s approval rating on the handling of the coronavirus was lower with seniors than with any other group other than 18-29-year-olds.
The White House’s mishandling of the coronavirus response is costing President Trump support in one of his key demographics: older white voters over 65.
Although this group largely delivered Trump’s election in 2016 due to his hard-line stance on immigration and his vow to protect Social Security and other safety-net programs, new polls show a greater vulnerability to COVID-19 infection has shaken their support as Trump forces through measures to reopen the economy despite warnings from medical experts and advocates.
A recent poll from data analysis firm Morning Consult reported Trump’s approval rating on the handling of the coronavirus was lower with seniors than with any other group other than 18-29-year-olds. Almost six out of seven people 65 years and older said containing the spread of coronavirus was more important than focusing on the economy.
This is a drastic drop from mid-March, when they rated Trump’s outbreak response more highly than any other age group. And several polls have shown former Vice President Joe Biden in a double-digit lead over Trump among voters 65 and older.
“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,” said pollster and Democratic strategist Geoff Garin. “If there’s a durable change with older voters, it could well cost Trump the election.”
Officials attributed the sagging support partly to the daily White House coronavirus briefings, where Trump often conflicted with his own experts and presented misleading or dangerous information. Sources told the New York Times that several top advisors, including his 2016 campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, appraised the president of the eroding base.
And though administration officials tout Trump’s campaign promise not to touch Social Security, as recently as January Trump has said he’s willing to consider cuts to the safety net of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—another blow to his relationship with older voters. If Biden is able to maintain his appeal with them while Trump’s slips, it could be a key factor in winning the expected tight presidential race.
“It’s up to the Trump campaign whether this is a temporary trend line with these voters, or not,” said Kevin Madden, an adviser to Sen. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. “They have to go out there and restore confidence with these voters.”