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Trump holds support of political base in virus-prone states

REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

Earl Kerr, a 57-year-old electrical contractor in Jacksonville, Florida, says he fears for his 80-year-old mother, who entered an assisted living facility just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States. And he says he worries that the tanking economy will sink his small business.

But he has faith in U.S. President Donald Trump to handle the crisis. He’s heard the widespread criticism that Trump initially didn’t take the pandemic seriously, that his administration failed to procure vital medical supplies and left overwhelmed states to fend for themselves. Kerr has a different take. “He’s not God. He can’t foresee the future or see that the virus can do this or that,” said Kerr, who voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to again in November. “He’s doing the best he can with the information that he gets.” Continued support from voters like Kerr could prove critical to Trump’s re-election bid - especially because the regions where the president has drawn support often overlap with those most vulnerable to the pandemic, a Reuters analysis shows. The analysis found one in five of Trump’s 2016 voters live in areas where health and economic factors heighten their risks from the coronavirus. Kerr is among 30 voters interviewed by Reuters who live in such at-risk metropolitan areas in Florida, Ohio and West Virginia and who voted for Trump in 2016 or support him now. The interviews, along with the latest Reuters/Ipsos polling data, show stalwart support among Trump’s political base amid the worst public health crisis in a century, with a rising U.S. death toll that has now surpassed 12,700, predictions of an economic depression, and the U.S. stock market’s biggest first-quarter loss in history. But neither has Trump enjoyed the dramatic gains in popularity that past presidents have sometimes seen during crises, when patriotism often runs high - illustrating a hardening of the bitter partisanship that has been the hallmark of his administration.

8 April 2020


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