I reported last week how the president was trailing Joe Biden in new swing state polling. Looking deeper into the polls, I found an interesting trend. Older voters have been one of the core components of the Trump base, but the president is now trailing Biden among older voters in all five of the presumed 2020 battleground states.
Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are shaping up to be battleground states this November. In all five of these states, recent polling shows that Joe Biden is now the preferred candidate of senior voters, a demographic that had been one of the principal parts of Trump’s base.
Not all polls make crosstab data, the demographic breakdown of the poll respondents, available to the public, but below are some of the most recent polls for each swing state to include the crosstabs. Because the polls are from different sources, the age groups don’t match perfectly, but they do provide a look into the age demographics of the race.
Biden – 52%
Biden Among 55 or Older – 51%
Trump Among 55 or Older -45%OH Predictive Insights, April 7-8
Biden – 46%
Trump – 42%
Biden 50-64 – 43%
Trump 50- 64 – 48%
Biden Over 65 – 52%
Trump Over 65 – 42%Quinnipiac, April 16-20
Biden – 49%
Trump – 41%
Biden Over 45 -50%
Trump Over 45 – 41%
Biden Baby Boom – 56%
Trump Baby Boom – 38%Fox News Poll, April 18-21
Biden – 50%
Trump – 42%
Biden Over 45 – 48%
Trump Over 45 – 45%
Biden Baby Boom – 51%
Trump Baby Boom – 44%Fox News Poll, April 18-21
Biden – 48%
Trump – 45%
Biden 46-65 – 46%
Trump 46-65 – 51%
Biden Over 65 – 54%
Trump Over 65 – 43%Public Policy Poll, March 10-11
These poll results should be sounding alarm bells at Team Trump. Older voters were one of the last remaining bastions of Trump support that had not been eroded as suburban, minority, and young voters fled the GOP in 2018.
In 2016, Trump won all age groups older than 40. By the 2018 midterms, exit polls showed that Republicans ceded 40-to-50-year-olds to the Democrats and barely eked out a victory among older voters by only a few points. While midterms and presidential elections have different pools of voters, Republicans should be concerned about the deterioration of the president’s support among older voters, especially in swing states.
The obvious questions are why older voters are abandoning Trump and whether the phenomenon is national. A new Economist/YouGov poll showed Trump leading among both 45-to-64-year-old (by five points) and the over-65 set (by three points) despite Biden leading overall by six points. A Fox News poll from earlier in April yielded similar results with Trump leading among voters older than 45 by seven points with the two candidates tied overall at 42 points. Trump seems to still lead with the older demographic nationally but by a slim margin.
As to the reason for the shift, the obvious answer is Coronavirus. In all four of the state polls that asked about the pandemic, Trump received negative marks from a majority of all voters and in two of the states, Florida and Wisconsin, Trump’s handling of the crisis was rated negatively by older voters as well.
As I wrote a month ago, it was both good news and bad news for Republicans that Donald Trump became the focus of the government response to the pandemic. No one has been watching Joe Biden for the past month as all eyes have been on Trump. As it turned out the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefings put Mr. Trump’s ineptitude on display for the nation to see and it shows in the polls. President Trump’s daily briefing has been an in-kind contribution to the Democrats.
Older voters, many of them veterans, may also not appreciate the Republican rush to reopen the economy. Trump supporters have advanced proposals that seniors should shelter-in-place while the rest of the country goes about its business and some, like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have openly suggested that seniors should be sacrificed for the good of the economy. It would be quite understandable if older voters were angered at these ideas and registered their disapproval with a shift toward Biden and the Democrats.
As I frequently point, polls are a snapshot of history, not predictive. Today’s polls don’t tell us the outcome of an election six months away. They do, however, show trends and give insights on what people think. The president’s campaign staff should be looking very closely at these poll results, which could be a bellwether of a larger shift away from Trump if measures are not taken to correct the problem.
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