A pollster explains why Joe Biden is outperforming Trump among older voters in this key state

A pollster explains why Joe Biden is outperforming Trump among older voters in this key state
Credit: Gage Skidmore

When President Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, a key factor was older voters — especially older white male voters. And if Trump is reelected in 2020, he will once again need a lot of support from older voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania. But journalist Julia Terruso, in a Philadelphia Inquirer article published on May 26, reports that Trump could face a major problem in the Keystone State: seniors moving in the direction of former Vice President Joe Biden, 2020’s presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.


“National polling averages show (Trump is) in a relative dead heat with Joe Biden among voters over 65, a group he won by 10 points in 2016,” Terruso explains. “In recent polling of Pennsylvania voters, Trump comes up a few points short of Biden with voters over 45, according to an April Fox (News) poll.”

Biden has a major advantage over Trump when it comes to a variety of demographics, from younger voters to African-Americans. But elections in the U.S. come down to turnout more than everything — and older voters are the most likely to show up on Election Day.

“How to explain the Trump senior slide?” Terruso writes. “His opponent this time, Biden, polls better with seniors than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Trump appears to be losing across the board with voters who said they backed him as a protest vote against Clinton. Another factor is likely Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected the elderly.”

Chris Borick, a pollster at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, stresses that seniors have plenty of reason to be worried about the coronavirus pandemic.

“Seniors have felt the wrath of this pandemic more than any other age cohort,” Borick told the Inquirer. “By numbers and health effects, it’s been devastating. The concern levels we’ve seen, when we’ve polled, are highest among seniors — and that, of course, could be bleeding into their appraisal of the president.”

One Pennsylvania senior who won’t be voting for Trump is 77-year-old Fran Johannes, a retired school teacher from Newton Square in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Johannes told the Inquirer, “A lot of seniors, they’re seeing their friends die….  Seniors, they’re taking a look at this, and they’re seeing family members are out of work — they may be losing their homes.”

Another older voter in the Philly suburbs the Inquirer interviewed is Bob Banion, a 68-year-old sales manager who voted for Trump in 2016 but now regrets that vote.

“As you get older in life,” Banion told the Inquirer, “you start to move toward the left — when you’re thinking about health care, when you’re thinking about other people’s rights and futures. Older people believe in class, believe in dignity, believe in doing the right thing. And you see all (Trump’s) doing to break that down. I am really disgusted I voted for him.”

Pennsylvania is considered a must-win state for Trump, and it’s one of the reasons he defeated Clinton in 2016. Democrats won Pennsylvania in every president election from 1992-2012, but in 2016, Trump became the first Republican to carry Pennsylvania in a presidential election since the late George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Patrick Murray, a pollster at Monmouth University in New Jersey, asserted that Biden’s performance among seniors in recent Pennsylvania polls is not good news for Trump’s 2020 campaign.

“This is historic,” Murray told the Inquirer. “The fact that we’re seeing this already in the data and it’s holding is something unusual —  and I’m sure it’s something the campaign is paying close attention to.”

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