Donald Trump Attacks on Joe Biden’s Age Risk Him Losing Older Voters
President Donald Trump‘s attacks on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden over his age could risk a loss in support among older voters should they also be insulted by the barbs.
In a recent social media jab at Biden, the president shared a photoshopped image of the former vice president in a retirement home with the words “Biden for Resident” underneath.
Trump, 74, has previously thrown such insults at Biden, 77—suggesting the Democrat had dementia, a syndrome which largely impacts the elderly, while also criticizing his cognitive ability and nicknaming him “Sleepy Joe.”
While Trump’s attacks coincide with polling indicating members of the public do have reservations over Biden’s age, there is a risk that they may not benefit him politically.
“One of the first rules of politics is not to insult your supporters or anyone whom you hope to convince to vote for you. You just don’t insult people and then expect them to support you,” David Andersen, assistant professor of United States politics at Durham University, told Newsweek.
While Trump may have got away with his no holds barred approach frequently working with his base, Andersen said insulting this group might go beyond a line.
“His base loves him because nothing is off-limits and he doesn’t care who he offends. He has repeatedly insulted groups—veterans, the disabled, the media—and his base has forgiven him and rallied around him. But this time, when he slips and insults his base itself—and with seniors already trending away from Trump because of previous similar behavior—this may be an insult too far,” he said.
Recent national polling from YouGov/The Economist put Biden ahead of Trump generally, with 46 percent of 1,500 respondents backing the Democrat compared to 37 percent for Trump.
The numbers were tighter among the 394 respondents aged 65 or older, with 47 percent for Biden and 46 percent for Trump. Respondents were asked October 11 to 13.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll of 1,014 adults asked October 6 to 9 also showed Biden up overall, with Biden up by 12 points among likely voters–at 54 percent for the Democrat compared to 42 for Trump. But again among older voters the numbers were tighter, with 49 percent for Biden and 48 percent for Trump.
Biden has targeted Trump on his attitude towards senior citizens. In a recent speech in Florida, he said: “The only senior that Donald Trump cares about — the only senior—is senior Donald Trump.”
In 2016, exit polls showed that older voters favored Trump over then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton—highlighting why retaining them could prove key to his re-election efforts.
“Any campaign professional would look at the demographics of his 2016 support and his current standing and instruct him to not attack Biden for his age,” David Brockington, a lecturer in politics and social science methods at the University of Plymouth, told Newsweek.
“It’s a stupid approach.”
Newsweek has contacted the Trump and Biden campaigns for comment.