May 8, 2020

THE ORANGE CEILING:

New polling data show Trump faltering in key swing states--here's why (William A. Galston, May 8, 2020, Brookings)

Some portions of this coalition--white evangelical Protestants and white men with less than a college education--are rock-solid. But there is evidence that other groups are beginning to waver. For example, President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton among voters 65 and older by 7 points, 52-45 percent, in 2016. In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, by contrast, Biden led Trump by 9 points, 52-43. Because seniors vote at a higher rate than any other age cohort, the shift in this group alone could be enough to sink the president's prospects in closely contested states.

As Trump pushes to reopen the economy, seniors, who overwhelmingly give priority to defeating the coronavirus over getting back to work, are registering their disapproval. As commentators have noted, the pandemic has driven a wedge between retirees and less educated middle-age workers, who cannot work remotely and depend on a regular paycheck. The president needs to retain the support of both these groups, but he is finding it hard to please one without antagonizing the other.

Trump's troubles do not end here. Continuing a trend first evident in the 2018 midterm elections, he is losing ground among white working-class women, who supported him by a 27-point margin in 2016. Because opinion among college-educated voters has hardened against the president since he took office, he needs strong majority support among the entire white working class to prevail. Working-class men will not be enough; he must get the votes of their spouses and daughters as well.

Although it is impossible to know for sure why white working-class women are deserting President Trump, some hypotheses are consistent with the evidence. Women attach a higher priority to health issues than do men and may be disappointed that the president does not seem to care as much about these issues as they would like. Women are more likely than men to believe that the economy is reopening too quickly and that the president's public statements during the crisis have been inconsistent and even harmful.

Posted by at May 8, 2020 1:33 PM

  

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