Older white voters are running from Trump at a breakneck pace
Older white Americans over the age of 65 proved to be some of the most decisive voters in 2016. As demographer William Frey wrote in a post-election analysis: "Whites, especially older whites, were responsible for reversing past Democratic expansion in the Sun Belt states of Florida and North Carolina, as well as for capturing previously Democratic leaning northern states: Iowa, Michigan Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”
But according to recent Civiqs data, which tends to be less reactive to current events than many polls, support for Donald Trump among that bloc of 65-plus white voters is eroding in real time, due to Trump’s abysmal handling of the coronavirus response. It probably doesn’t hurt that Trump and other Republicans have been pushing the notion that getting the economy back on track is far more important than saving the lives of older Americans.
Let’s go step by step, beginning with Trump’s overall approval rating. Civiqs shows Trump’s approval rating amid the coronavirus crisis reverting back to 2018 government shutdown levels at 42%.
When looking specifically at voters over 65, the drop-off in support since about mid-March is notable, with Trump’s 53% approval, just before he declared a national emergency, dropping to 50% approval in late April.
But the data for older white independents is darn near eye-popping, with Trump hitting 61% approval around mid-March, before falling to 50% in late April.
That 10-point slide among older white independents is consistent among both men and women, though men’s support for Trump started off higher at the outset. So Trump’s approval among the demographic’s women has dropped from 55% in mid-March to 44% now; while among men, it has dropped from 69% to 58% in the same timeframe.
Even among older white Republicans, Trump has seen a 2-point slide in the last month and a half.
It’s a very interesting trend precisely because older white voters were the demographic group that pierced a hole in the Obama coalition of voters. As Frey noted in 2016, the bloc of white voters over 45 and over 65 constituted “the strongest support for Donald Trump in almost every swing state that he won.”