Expert: Trump’s pandemic response will determine 2020 election


The outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic may make or break President Donald Trump’s bid for reelection, Rice political scientist Mark Jones said during an April 22 webinar.

voting booths “The better we emerge, the more Trump will be given credit for it even if he doesn’t deserve it, and the worse we are, the more Trump will be essentially punished even if he doesn’t deserve,” said Jones, a fellow in political science at the Baker Institute for Public Policy and Rice’s Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies.

Jones discussed how the pandemic will affect state and national elections and answered viewers’ questions during the one-hour webinar, which was hosted by the Baker Institute.

Trump’s success is riding on how well the economy is doing in November, Jones said.

“You have a lot of economic voters out there, and when they are not voting on pure partisanship, they tend to vote for the incumbent president when the economy is booming and they tend to punish the incumbent president when the economy is in the downturn,” he said.

Right now, by some measures, the country is in its worst economic situation since the Great Depression.

“That is a negative for Donald Trump, especially if he cannot get us a  , where we hit rock bottom sometime in June or July and then start going in terms of economic growth as we approach November,” Jones said.

When the pandemic began, Trump’s approval rating was at an all-time high of about 50% according to some polls.

David Medina is director of Multicultural Community Relations in Rice’s Office of Public Affairs.

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is editor of Rice New.