In a Monday op-ed for The Washington Post, Karen Tumulty argued that Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is driving away older voters, which she notes is the Republican Party’s most reliable base of support.
Tumulty pointed, in particular, to a survey of 44 battleground House districts that was conducted by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. In 2016, voters over 65 supported Trump by a 22-point margin, with 58 percent supporting Trump and 36 percent voting for Hillary Clinton. This year, the same group is more evenly divided, with 47 percent planning to vote for Trump and 43 percent for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
According to Tumulty, one of the factors driving this shift is the Republican Party’s messaging that purportedly suggests the health of older Americans is not a priority.
“Insensitive comments aside, a bigger problem for Trump and the Republicans may be that older Americans have been paying close attention to the president’s handling of the crisis,” she added.
Tumulty noted that older Americans are “most attuned” to broadcast news, which means they have been keeping a close eye on Trump’s coronavirus press briefings, including the public relations disaster that occurred when Trump floated the idea of internal disinfectant use.
Although Tumulty says that it’s not likely Biden will gain more overall support from older voters than Trump, she suggests he could make a “significant dent” in Trump’s margin by gaining the support of some of the demographic. This dent, she says, could compensate for Biden’s possible lack of young voter support, which former candidate Bernie Sanders previously tapped into.
Regardless, Tumulty claims that the future of the older demographic’s trajectory will hinge on the outcome of Trump and the Republican Party’s push to reopen the country.
“If they move too quickly and trigger a second wave of infections, it could arrive just in time for the election. But at least one thing is certain: The age group most likely to suffer is also the one most likely to vote.”
Recent polling and analysis from FiveThirtyEight supports the notion that older voters are moving from Trump to Biden. In addition, a study from the journal Administrative Theory & Praxis suggested that coronavirus could harm Trump’s chances by hitting older voters the hardest.
In an interview with Politico, the study’s lead author, Andrew Johnson, spoke about the implications of the findings.
“The pandemic is going to take a greater toll on the conservative electorate leading into this election — and that’s simply just a calculation of age.”