Nine months after a rally in South Carolina where Trump contorted his arms in a way that was clearly meant to imitate the effects of arthrogryposis, which visibly limits flexibility in the arms of journalist Serge F. Kovaleski, voters say the incident still disturbs them. In a Bloomberg Politics poll published Thursday, 83 percent of respondents said they are bothered by the episode — more than said they were bothered by Trump’s recent feud with a Gold Star family, his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin or lawsuits against Trump University.
In fact, making fun of a reporter with a disability registered as more unsettling than any concern about either major-party presidential nominee in the survey — ahead of Hillary Clinton's email scandal, even.
Democrats have known for a while that Trump’s attack on Kovaleski had a powerful effect on voters. Before the first ballots of the primary season were cast, a pro-Clinton super PAC was already using it in a well-funded ad campaign.During the Democratic convention, Ari Ne'eman wrote at Vox:
People with disabilities are used to feeling like a second-class minority group. In American politics, when disability is mentioned at all, it’s too often in the context of trite inspiration porn or offensive and inaccurate myths about people faking problems to unfairly access public benefits. Rarely do disabled Americans hear meaningful discussion of the issues that impact our lives.
That’s what makes this year’s Democratic National Convention so surprising. The first two nights of the convention included an unusual level of disability-rights content. Both evenings have included prominent remarks from disabled speakers with decades-long relationships with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Behind this growing interest is a fundamental political reality. Nearly one in five Americanspossess a disability of some kind. While many are disconnected from disability politics, a substantial minority of disabled Americans and their family members consider disability issues a major factor in their voting decisions. (At the Democratic convention itself, the number of disabled delegates is up 35 percent, relative to the 2012 convention.)
Polling of the community suggests disabled voters are distributed through both political parties at about the same rate as the general population. Meaning that they remain up for grabs for either party. Disability issues can meaningfully influence voting behavior. In a 2013 poll, 87 percent of voters with disabilities reported they would consider voting against a candidate they otherwise supported if that candidate favored cutting disability services. Forty-five percent indicated such a stance would definitely lose their vote.