But Trump’s responses to several of today’s most significant issues in the past week are making the already unpopular president less popular with these voters.
1. Despite increases in reported coronavirus cases — so severe in some states that their leaders have ordered some shutdowns again — Trump is pressuring schools to reopen this fall.
2. While most Americans believe that monuments honoring Confederate soldiers who fought to keep black people enslaved should be removed, Trump does not — and has even used racist slurs to attack his political opponents on the issue.
3. Days after speaking near Mount Rushmore — a monument to presidents carved on a mountain that some Native American tribes consider sacred — Trump criticized athletic teams that are changing their names and mascots from those deemed racist toward Native Americans.
The pandemic has been challenging for many parents trying to adjust to working at home while educating their children. But the president’s eagerness to send students back to school as soon as possible seems more rooted in his desire to give the impression that the pandemic is under control as opposed to data supporting that things are actually improving. That could hurt him with suburban voters — and particularly the women and mothers who supported him in the past.
Susan Hennessey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, tweeted about the importance of states doing what is needed now to make schools safe enough to reopen — something that has not yet been demonstrated.
And while Trump opposes removing Confederate memorials — a position he also took in August 2017 when he defended white nationalists who marched to preserve the monuments — most Americans do not. I previously reported that most voters — 52 percent — support removing Confederate statues from public spaces around the country, according to a June Quinnipiac University poll, a significant increase in support since August 2017, when fewer than 40 percent of voters supported removing such statues.
Trump has also fought his culture war battles on the sports field, and it’s not surprising to see him fight to preserve the controversial names of sports teams. But his position could increasingly put him at odds with the many voters reevaluating how systemic racism permeates American society.
Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said in a statement that she hopes to meet with the National Football League to change the name of the Washington Redskins.
“Indian Country deserves nothing less,” she wrote. “The time to change is now.”
Among the Americans who feel uncomfortable with Trump’s position on racial issues are suburban voters — and that can have real ramifications for November. Marc Thiessen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote in The Washington Post last week:
In the wake of recent racial unrest, Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has opened a commanding 25-point lead over Trump in the suburbs. Two-thirds of Americans say the president has made racial tensions worse since the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Trump’s uncompromising rhetoric and retweets are driving away swing voters who don’t want to be associated with a senior citizen shouting “white power!”
The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows the president receiving about a third of the suburban vote — a significant decline from the nearly 50 percent of support he received in 2016. With several months left before the election, that number could drop more, and perhaps is likely to if Trump continues to address these issues in the same way. And all indicators suggest that he will. The president’s campaign has been particularly vocal about his desire to turn out his base with the hope of being victorious in the fall, but it will be very difficult for him to win the election if he continues to take stances on issues that suburban voters oppose.