US: The pandemic is proving decisive amongst swing voters in this election
After four extraordinary years of the Trump presidency, trying to pin down the one thing that could win or deprive the president of a second term sounds like a foolhardy task. The two candidates have very different strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately it is clear that if Trump fails to be re-elected, it will primarily because he is the wrong man to lead in a crisis like this.
Donald Trump’s strengths are in four key areas, the most prominent of which is his economic policies with 58% of his voters indicating that this is an important reason for backing him. Perhaps unsurprising when nearly nine in ten (89%) of his voters think the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been a success, with most strongly preferring him to manage the economy. Nearly half (48%) of Trump’s voters also say they are backing him due to his immigration policies, with three quarters (75%) of his voters believing his building of the ‘the Wall’ to be a triumph. The other two key reasons why Trump voters are backing him are his national security policies (45%) and his leadership ability (43%).
On the other hand, Joe Biden appears to be offering his voters something very different. On the policy front, almost two thirds (63%) of his voters say they are supporting him because of his response to the Covid-19 pandemic, while 54% back him at least partly for his health care policies. Another bonus for Biden is that his voters both like his leadership style (57%) and his personality (50%), with a majority of his supporters claiming this to be a factor in their voting decision.
It is also interesting to look at which issues are absent from this list. Considering the worldwide impact of the Black Lives Matters movement it seems strange that this is not playing a crucial role in this election. This is not to say that it has been ignored by voters. However, for the most part Trump’s vociferous response to BLM is acting to galvanise loyal Democratic voters, but, it is not proving to be a massive net vote winner for Joe Biden amongst swing voters.
In fact, by drilling down into the data and looking at those voters who backed Trump in 2016 and now intend to vote for Biden, we can highlight which of these issues have been decisive . It appears two key factors have been crucial: Covid and the president’s personality. These swing voters that have deserted Trump point to both as important reasons for refusing to vote for him again, and as key reasons why they are instead backing Joe Biden.
If America does wake up to find Joe Biden as president-elect on Wednesday, it will be because voters wanted a steady leader in a public health crisis. This means his mandate would be primarily to get a grip on the pandemic and steady the ship of state. But this also suggests that huge issues such as the economy, foreign affairs and even race relations played surprisingly small roles in securing a victory. A Biden administration would need to work hard at finding a voice on these topics over the next four years, if the Democrats are indeed incumbent in the White House in 2024.