What America’s Seniors are Saying

Robert Brooks Contributor
What America’s Seniors are Saying
Read Time: approx. 3:34

This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on October 14, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up. Photo Credit: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Yelp Inc.

Last Thursday, while recovering from COVID-19, President Donald Trump filmed a video in front of the White House in an effort to appeal to the nation’s senior citizen population. Among other things, the President said the “cure” to the coronavirus “will be free.” Additionally, this week the Trump campaign is launching a new “eight-figure” advertising campaign geared directly at this same demographic. Here’s what polls and pundits are saying about senior citizens’ standing on the President with just under three weeks to go until the November 3rd election.

On the Left: On October 4, Mark Murry of NBC reported that “Joe Biden’s national lead over President Donald Trump nearly doubled after [the first] presidential debate, with voters saying by 2-to-1 that Biden has the better temperament to be president, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.” Murray specifically notes that “The biggest declines for Trump were among seniors (who now back Biden by 62 percent to 35 percent) and suburban women (58 percent to 33 percent).” Writing for Fortune, Aric Jenkins says “A CNN/SSRS poll two days later showed similar results, with Biden leading in the age group by 21 points (60% to 39%). The trend can also be found on a state level as well. Take Michigan, for example, a state Trump narrowly won in 2016: A WDIV/Detroit News poll from Oct. 5 shows Biden leading Trump by roughly 30 points among voters 65 and older (59% to 29%).” Tamara Lush of the Associated Press then contextualized these statistics with an article published this past weekend titled: “A senior warning sign for Trump: ‘Go Biden’ cry at Villages.” In the article, which was picked up by outlets including the LA Times, Lush says, “it seems, older voters have been put off by Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, which affects these voters more acutely than others. They were particularly alarmed by Trump’s performances at daily task force briefings in the spring because his remarks showed an uneven handling of the crisis and inspired little confidence.” Lush adds: “The president’s own COVID-19 infection has refocused attention on the virus and his handling of it. If the 74-year-old Trump can’t safeguard his own health, some wonder, how can he be trusted to protect other older adults who are far more vulnerable?”

On the Right: Nick Givas of Fox News cites a different poll from The University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab, which showed President Trump leading among seniors against Democratic nominee Joe Biden. However, Givas acknowledges that Trump is leading by a substantially smaller margin than he had in 2016 against then-rival Hillary Clinton. “Trump garnered 50 percent from voters 65 and older, with 47 percent going for Biden. [In 2016] Trump previously had a 14 point lead with voters 65 and older back when he faced Clinton.” There are many on both sides of the aisle that simply don’t believe the polls. In a balanced article for The Tampa Bay Times, Mary Ellen Klas highlights Chris Stanley, a Democratic Party leader in the nation’s largest retirement community, who says she is reluctant to put much stock in the polls: “I’m ignoring the polls this year because, yes, Florida is gonna be a 1 percent state. It’s always been a 1 percent state.” Elsewhere, “Nancy Detert, a long-time Republican state senator, said she is [also] skeptical that voters are being honest with pollsters, and she predicts the race in Florida is going to be as close as it was 20 years ago when Florida was forced to launch a recount to determine if George W. Bush or Al Gore won.” Lastly, Ellen Klas also highlights “Bob White, a staunch Trump supporter, [who] not only doesn’t believe the polls but points to the “enthusiasm” of President Trump’s base. White said: “The enthusiasm for [Trump] is off the charts. Every time you turn around there’s another event with 300 trucks and motorcycles or 1,000 boats. I just don’t see it on the Biden side.”

Flag This: As noted by Axios, “Senior citizens are the most reliable voting bloc and they formed the core of Trump’s political base in 2016.” This dynamic is especially important in swing states like Florida. In the Tampa Bay Times article, Mary Ellen Klas points out that “Trump won Florida by just over 113,000 votes in 2016 but won senior voters by nearly 330,000.” Many outlets on both sides attribute the senior shift in the polls to the coronavirus, “a disruption that has left seniors uniquely vulnerable, and isolated and without any clear plan to bring them back safely into society,” Zack Stanton writes for POLITICO. “But to Nora Super, the senior director of the Milken Institute’s Center for the Future of Aging, it goes well beyond that.” Super notes that “The ranks of America’s seniors are expanding rapidly — 10,000 people turn 65 every day.” What’s more, she says “we’ve seen the pervasive ageism in our society, and that has energized older people to say, ‘Hey, I’m not dead yet.’ This energy will be interesting to observe in terms of voter turnout. On one hand, seniors “are the most likely to cast their ballots, which gives them political clout beyond their numbers alone,” Emily Brandon writes for US News. “Some 64% of citizens age 65 and older voted in the November 2018 election, the best turnout of any age group.” On the other hand, we are now dealing with the coronavirus, which is most dangerous for the older cohort of our society, especially in crowded locations. How the various pieces of this pandemic puzzle impact who our senior citizens select for President will certainly be studied for years to come.