COVID-19 vaccine ready by elections won't help Trump – U. of Haifa expert

“In May, about 3 in 4 Americans were willing to take the vaccine immediately, now that number is down to 1 in 2. And among Republicans, it is even less.”

Bottles labeled "Vaccine" stand near medical syringe in front of "Coronavirus COVID-19" display (illustrative) (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)
Bottles labeled "Vaccine" stand near medical syringe in front of "Coronavirus COVID-19" display (illustrative)
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)
A coronavirus vaccine made ready for distribution to the American public before Election Day is unlikely to have much sway among voters' decision come November 3, according to a US electoral politics expert and analyst.
Incumbent President Donald Trump has been touting in recent weeks that an effective vaccine against COVID-19 will be made available for Americans soon, likely before the election. Most analysts attribute this as an attempt by the Trump administration to boost his popularity as he fights for reelection against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
But according to University of Haifa senior political science lecturer and US electoral politics expert Dr. Israel Waismel-Manor, any impact this will have on voters will be negligible at best.
One major reason for this, he explained in a webinar for the University of Haifa's American Society, was because many Americans are wary over a vaccine they perceive to be rushed, even among Trump's own party.
“People seem to understand that getting [a vaccine] rushed in before Election Day is probably not the best strategy,” Waismel-Manor said.
“In fact, if you look at the data, in May, about three in four Americans were willing to take the vaccine immediately, now that number is down to one in two. And among Republicans, it is even less.
“I suspect that just having the news that a vaccine was approved by Election Day would be somewhat of a nice [addition] to President Trump’s reelection campaign, but I don’t think it is going to sway too many voters.”
This is further compounded with the fact that while Trump's main base of support has remained loyal, ensuring his approval rating has only dropped four points in the past four months, many other Americans hold Trump as being responsible to some extent for the current crisis.
Trump’s voter base "isn’t too affected by this crisis because they support Trump and assume that [the pandemic] is not his fault… I heard one of his advisers recently say that [COVID-19] was like Pearl Harbor, meaning it happened on his shift but it’s not his fault,” Waismel-Manor explained.
“Obviously, people who are Independents or Democrats are much more likely to think that the crisis is to some degree his fault.”
If the Trump team wants to come out of November 3 victorious, then the best thing he can do is stop focusing his campaign on beating the virus, and instead on what many associate Trump with the most: The economy.
“When it comes to the economy, the American public thinks that President Trump knows what he is doing better than Biden, as he is a businessman who has done well with the Dow Jones and with unemployment,” Waismel-Manor said. He added, though, that “Biden’s message should be all COVID, from dawn to dusk.”
The economy remains a major focus of Trump's campaign efforts, and was one of the many hot-button issues discussed at Tuesday night's debate between Trump and Biden.
At the debate, Trump touted how the US was recovering from the coronavirus shutdown.
"We had 10.4 million people in a four-month period that we've put back in the workforce. That's a record the likes of which nobody's ever seen before.... Our country is coming back incredibly well," Trump said.
While this is true – or rather an understatement, with the actual figure of new jobs between the four month period of April and August sitting at 10.6 million, according to the US Labor Department – it is still a far cry from the 22.1 million jobs lost at the onset of the pandemic.
Reuters contributed to this report.