Former Vice President Joe Biden has jumped out to an 11-point lead over President Donald Trump in CNN’s poll of polls. While Biden is doing better with pretty much all groups compared with 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, one group jumps out: seniors.
Biden’s well on his way to doing better with seniors than any Democratic nominee in at least 24 years.
These are, to put it mildly, massive differences from 2016. In the final average of registered-voter polls, Trump led Clinton by 5 points among seniors. His advantage was 6 points among likely voters. These polls are suggesting something along the lines of 25- to 30-point shifts in Biden’s direction.
What’s amazing is that these most recent polls are merely the manifestation of Trump’s ebbing support with seniors. Since the conventions in August, the average of live-interview polls that meet CNN standards have Biden up by an average of 8 points with seniors. Even if these polls aren’t as emphatic for him, that still means a movement of nearly 15 points from where Clinton stood in the final polls of 2016.
Importantly, I already have noted how this movement among seniors is being seen on the state level as well. In Florida, for instance, where seniors make up around 30% of voters, Biden’s winning with voters 65 and older. Last time around, Clinton lost those voters by nearly 10 points in the final preelection polls.
But it’s not just the comparisons with 2016 that make Biden’s performance impressive. It’s also comparisons with every Democratic candidate in the last generation.
No Democrat has really come close to winning with voters 65 and older. The last time the network exit polls had any Democrat winning with seniors was in 2000, with Al Gore. Even then, it was just by 4 points, and most other data sets did not have Gore triumphant with this group.
You really need to go back to 1996 and Bill Clinton to find any Democrat who was approaching Biden’s lead with voters 65 and older. In that cycle, voters 65 and older were mostly made up of the Greatest Generation – a group that leaned more Democratic than you might expect in later elections as well.
Indeed, that’s what makes what’s going on with current seniors all the more interesting. The shift away from the Republicans is happening over one election cycle. We’re talking about the same basic group of voters.
Now, it would be easy to think that seniors’ movement away from Trump is because of the coronavirus, which is disproportionately affecting them. They’re more likely than any other age group to think the pandemic is an important issue, and they trust Biden over Trump by a 25-point margin on who is best to handle it.
Coronavirus may be responsible for some of the tremendous advantages Biden got in the CNN and NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls, though I’m not sure it is the root cause.
As I pointed out previously, Biden’s been doing better with seniors than Clinton since before the pandemic hit earlier this year. A year ago, he was up 11 points over Trump in a CNN poll.
Whatever the root cause, losing seniors is one big reason that Trump is a significant underdog at this point. They’re about 25% of the electorate. When you’re doing 15 points or more worse with a quarter of voters, you’ll likely be in big trouble. And so it is for Trump.