WASHINGTON – Generation Z loathes him. Millennials overwhelmingly back his opponent. And even once-supportive seniors have turned away.
As his turbulent reelection bid enters its final phase, President Donald Trump has been hindered by lackluster approval from most generations of voters – with one important exception.
In poll after poll of the 2020 race, Trump receives his highest share of support from middle-aged men and women, an often overlooked demographic that is now playing a critical role in keeping the president’s electoral hopes alive against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
These voters – older members of Generation X and younger Baby Boomers ranging in age from their late 40s to early 60s – are often the only age group that give Trump the majority of their support in national and battleground state surveys.
And while seniors, once regarded as the most pro-Trump generation, have soured on the president since the 2016 election, middle-aged voters remain as supportive as ever.
“They have been the one age group that has been with Trump,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “They look different this year because all the other age groups have moved toward Joe. But this is the one that hasn’t behaved differently than last time.”
Veteran pollsters and operatives say they can offer few certain explanations for why middle-aged voters haven’t wavered from the president – though they point to their relatively more favorable perceptions of the direction of the economy and the coronavirus pandemic, as well as their political upbringing during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, as contributing factors.
They also acknowledge that age groups often receive far less attention than racial and educational demographics when analyzing the election.
But in the final weeks of the presidential race, middle-aged voters – expected to make up more than one-third of the total electorate this year – will be a target for both campaigns, as Trump tries to retain his relatively high levels of support and Biden attempts to make the sort of inroads he’s made with older voters.
“These older middle-aged voters are pretty essential to Trump’s coalition, especially in the upper Midwest,” said Will Jordan, a Democratic pollster. “He can’t really win without them.”
In a national poll of the presidential race released last week from Quinnipiac University, Trump trailed Biden among almost every age group, even losing seniors by a four-point margin, 46% to 50%.
But among likely voters aged 50 to 64, the survey found Trump held a significant edge, attracting 53% support to Biden’s 44%.
It was a similar story in another national poll from Monmouth University, with Trump significantly losing to Biden among 35- to 49-year-olds (39% to 54%) and among seniors (43% to 54%). But for those between the ages of 50 and 64, the president led 51% to 44%.
The generational divide is stark in key battleground states as well.