April 13, 2021

Trumps polling nightmare among older voters is going from bad to worse

  • President Donald Trump is doing even worse among older voters following his first debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
  • Going into the debate, Trump was behind Biden by 4 points among voters 65 and older in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll — but that number ballooned to 27 points afterwards.
  • A new CNN poll has Biden up by 33 points among older people, a margin almost unthinkable for any Democrat in modern American politics.
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Older voters are the most consequential voting bloc in American politics, and they were a major reason why Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016.

Yet Trump’s poor showing among them when stacked up against Democratic nominee Joe Biden — particularly in key Electoral College states — has only gotten worse, with new polls following the first debate spelling potential doom for the Trump campaign.

Going into the first debate against Biden, Trump was down four points among voters 65 and older in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

In the NBC/WSJ poll after the debate, Biden’s lead went up to 27 points.

A new CNN poll was even more startling, finding Biden ahead by 33 points among older voters.

In some of these polls, Biden is performing better among seniors than with younger voters, marking a phenomenon almost unthinkable for a Democrat in modern American politics.

These polls also don’t even factor in whatever hit Trump may take following his hospitalization for COVID-19.

Older voters have been souring on Trump’s pandemic response since the spring, and despite the campaign’s attempts to reset the race around issues like the economy, “law and order” or the Supreme Court, the leader of the free world getting hospitalized with the deadly disease took the rug out from any such pivot.

As early as April, pollsters and analysts were sounding the alarm that Trump’s standing among older voters was not as robust as it was in 2016, and that it could imperil his bid for re-election. A May 2020 analysis of national head-to-head polls between Biden and Trump conducted between April 1 and mid-May found that the president saw an enormous shift in popularity among Americans 65 and up compared to his performance in the same group in 2016.

The FiveThirtyEight analysis reported that while Trump beat Clinton in that cohort by 13 percentage points that year — 55% to 42% — Biden was polling ahead of Trump by 1 percentage point in the polls in question. That 14 percentage point shift would be damaging for any candidate, but if Biden truly has expanded his lead from nearly dead-even to a double-digit lead, the impact on the President’s re-election bid is dire.