Even if a vaccine is approved before the presidential election, voters might not reward Trump

trump vaccine coronavirus presidential election
Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

For weeks, President Donald Trump has been adamant that a COVID-19 vaccine will arrive before voters cast their ballots in the November presidential election. Trump, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 1 and who has put his campaign on hold while he quarantines, has appeared confident that a swift COVID-19 vaccine will help his chances in the upcoming election, leading many experts to worry about the safety and effectiveness of such a vaccine. But polls indicate that an October vaccine likely won’t tilt the election in Trump’s favor.

A poll from Politico and the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that a pre-election vaccine will have “virtually no effect” on how voters cast their ballots. The poll indicated that the deep partisan divide will have a greater effect on the election, with Trump supporters and supporters for Democratic nominee Joe Biden placing emphasis on entirely different issues. 

For Trump supporters, the three top concerns cited in the poll were the economy, terrorism, and taxes. Biden supporters’ top three concerns were racial discrimination, COVID-19, and police violence.

Even if a vaccine arrived by election day, reports indicate that many voters would be skeptical. A CBS News poll revealed that 65% of voters would consider an October vaccine to be “rushed.” Even if Trump produced a vaccine in time for the election, many voters wouldn’t sprint to acquire it. The CBS poll shows that only 21% of voters would trust a vaccine immediately after it was approved. A far greater percentage—58%—would prefer to wait and see how effective the vaccine is before scheduling an appointment.

The president’s camp appears to be banking on hopes that a successful vaccine will shift the focus. Trump continues to outpoll Biden when it comes to economic issues. If the focus shifts from who can better combat the virus to who is better equipped to restart the economy, the president will likely find himself on far more solid ground. 

Some voters are focused on concerns that a rushed vaccine could threaten public health. Vaccine companies have echoed this fear, evidenced in a letter signed by nine leading pharmaceutical companies. In the letter, the companies vowed not to participate in rolling out a premature vaccine.

“We believe this pledge will help ensure public confidence in the rigorous scientific and regulatory process by which COVID-19 vaccines are evaluated and may ultimately be approved,” the companies wrote in the letter. Dr Anthony Fauci, the face of the administration’s coronavirus team, has echoed these concerns, and he’s noted that a vaccine before the election is “unlikely.”

Trump has been accused of politicising a COVID-19 vaccine to help his election chances. The president is pushing back on these claims, even as he accuses his opponents of doing the same. Meanwhile, at their first presidential debate on Sept. 29, Biden called him a “fool” for not recommending that people wear masks. 

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Sources: Politico, Newsday, the Guardian, NPR, CBS News

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