President Donald Trump won older voters 65 years and older by 52% to 45% in 2016, according to national exit polls. He’ll need this voting bloc to show up strong again in 2020, especially in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Recent polls, however, could show signs of trouble. According to the latest numbers from Morning Consult, seniors are growing critical of President Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 epidemic. While nationally the president’s net approval on his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak is +3, among Americans over 65, it is -1. That’s a drop of 20 points from March when the president’s net approval on this issue was +19 with older Americans, the highest of any age group.
As Morning Consult notes, Americans over 65 years old believe it is more important to address the spread of the virus over concerns about the economy by a six-to-one margin. That is not surprising, considering those in this age bracket are more vulnerable to the virus and either retired or closer to retirement compared to other age cohorts. As the president turns to re-opening the economy, these Americans may grow more concerned about their safety and hold the president responsible.
Looking at the voter equation, this isn’t to say that the president is wrong to look at economic concerns. With businesses closing and record unemployment, he’s right to focus on the economic repercussions of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. That said, it cannot be an either/or discussion. He must also reassure America – especially older citizens more susceptible to the virus – that he and the federal government are working with states to keep all Americans safe.